The Girl Next Door

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the story about that girl whose life is just like many other girls suffering, and couldn't tell their stories in their own words

Submitted: April 08, 2016

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Submitted: April 08, 2016

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I have never carved for sleep in my entire life. The maximum hours I’ve ever remain awake had never exceeded 19. But the last two days were different. My eyes were heavy. They were so red that even I was terrified of seeing them in the mirror. I even hear voices in my head like I am hallucinating. I felt like my mind is dead and my unconscious mind is driving me. When I walked with no surety whether my legs would take me where I want to go. But finally I was about to begin my giant snores as I have got two long hours to take a power nap in the train before I reach Baroda. I love travelling in train because it always makes me nostalgic. Remembering my first trip to Mount Abu with my friends, having random conversations with strangers on board and become friends during a long journey, arrival of someone special after a long time is like sight for sour eyes and the roar of huge metal wheels adding back ground music while watching the views outside the windows is always mesmerising. I use to make trips from Ahmedabad to Baroda every week end as my home is at Baroda and Ahmedabad is where I work.

 

As always, I have done the reservation for window seat for the chilled breath of breeze in hot burning summer. I was not sure about the views outside the windows during the night time. It was confirmed, it would take less than a time-lapse for me to collapse after I close my eyes. But I couldn’t risk sleeping before the train moves, as I have to make sure, the person going to sit near me is not a thief.

 

Finally my anxiety was going to fade away. A young and handsome guy just walked across my berth after the announcement was made about the departure of my train in five minutes. His eyes were jammed on the book that he was holding and he kept bumping people trying to pass by him. He kept pushing the bag that was hanging to his right shoulder with his elbow preventing it to roll down his hand while his palm was buzy clutching a folded novel that was nearly about to end. His other hand was holding a paper cup wrapped with a tissue paper which looked exactly like a chimney.

“Can I have a seat?” he said, without even looking at me because I was sure the novel in his hand was more interesting than my face. He sat on the opposite berth even before I could respond with a “Yes”. I didn’t bother to say yes because that was not my seat anyway.

My detective brain was barely working as it was tired. So I concluded by the Woodland jacket he wore, that he won’t be stealing my stuff. Finally the moment arrived to catch a few wings.

A thick slurping voice forced to separate my eyelids just after I tried to close them. It was not hard to find out that the guy with the chimney in his hand was sipping from the same. My “kick out of the sleep” reaction was like a shock given to me which certainly grabbed his attention. He raised his paper cup towards me with a guilty face offering me his coffee. I smiled at him to cover his embarrassment and nodded a “No”. I tried to catch my sleep assuming he won’t repeat it again. “Slurrrrrppp…..” This was harder than the last one and this time he was not even looking at me pretending to be lost in his novel. I figured he did this only to show me his shameless attitude. He took another slurp right after that. Then he went on doing it without even breathing. It seemed like the book he was reading was on “How to slurp” and he was practicing it from the book.

“Can you please stop it? My wife is trying to sleep.” I said with an artificial smile on my face, pointing towards my wife sleeping on my shoulder. “Oh.. I am sorry, it’s about to finish” he said pointing towards the book in his hand. I confirmed in my mind that this guy made a master plan to annoy me before leaving home. Before I lost my cool, he closed the book in his hand, threw the paper cup out of the window and screamed, “Finally, it’s over”. He didn’t mention whether the coffee or the novel. As long as he had done with the slurps I didn’t bother what. “Actually I always need decoction to remain fully function by the evening evening. Addicted like smokers…. Ha… Ha… Ha… Ha…” he said with an overwhelming enthusiasm. 

“Hai. I am Varun.” He said stretching his arm towards me. I was not at all in a hand shaking mood. Besides if I shake hands, it was certain that he would be talking the whole way and won’t allow me to sleep. So I ignored and slipped my eyes away from him. Moving his hand away he replied, “What happen? Terrified of strangers? Ha… ha… ha….”

Listening to his laughter, I realized I may not be able to sleep in front of this monster. But I also have to make sure that the monster won’t destroy my wife’s sleep. There was no option than being polite and listen to him talk and make sure his volume stay under control.

“Have you read this book “Two States”?” He asked showing the book cover to me. “No” I said in a depressed tone trying to make him realize that he was making me uncomfortable with his small talks.

“Disgusting story. The main character is just a dumb” he said making a face like he was the only genius. That caught my attention as Chetan Bhagat is a good writer. I asked, “don’t you like Chetan Bhagat?” He replied, “I like his stories. I loved all the books written by him, but in this book he is such a dumbass”. I was not ready to defend that book as I was so tired. So I planned to continue my sleep. I closed my eyes for a while but can’t stop thinking about why he didn’t like the book as I too was a fan of Chetan Bhagat. So being a loyal fan I couldn’t help but ask, “Sir, if you don’t mind, I just have one question. What made you dislike the book?” He was so quick to answer, “Well the plot of the story was good, but in the end, both of them get married. I mean can you believe it? Krish didn’t even know whether Ananya was a virgin or not. Still he blindly trusts her and gets married. Even there are many parts in the story which clearly give us a hint that Ananya was not a virgin”. His answer proved that he was an ignorant douc bag. He was exhibiting his stupidity in a very confident manner. But I was really offended by his answer. I figured I must explain to him politely. I asked, “Does it matter whether the girl is virgin or not? All you need from a girl is true love and loyalty to her husband right?” Ignoring my point of view, he said, “My friend, if we marry a girl who is not a virgin, it’s like we are been cheated. I mean it’s like we are going to buy a new car and the dealer gives us a used car instead”. I was shocked by his reply. He was a grown up man and look like he was close to his 30s. Still he was talking like a kid. Me being a bit curious, leaned a little forward, and taking care that my wife’s head don’t slip from my shoulder, asked him, “Don’t you find any difference between a car and a wife?” Being adamant in his point, he replied, “CAR or WIFE, used is used”. I didn’t find any better come back for his answer. He continued, “I was in a relationship with a girl named Sandhya for five years. We were about to get married. Her family made all the arrangements. But on the wedding day, I came to know that she was having a boyfriend in the past. On the same day I dumped her. I am not foolish enough to be cheated”. I felt really sorry about that girl. I was curious and I asked, “What happen to that girl then?” He replied with shot of pride on his face, “She still use to call me and try to convince me for marriage. She cries many times saying, her family can’t face such an insult in front of her relatives. But who cares. She should have thought that before sleeping with her boyfriend”. Finally I realized there was no point talking to this man. I asked, “Where are you going?”

He replied, “I am going to Mumbai, to meet a girl arranged by my parents”. Being sarcastic, I asked, “Who is that lucky girl?” He said, “Lucky or not, I will come to know once I find out whether she is a virgin or not”.

I figured he was pretty serious about the virginity factor. He continued, “You need atleast a year to find out whether the girl is virgin or not. You need to earn her trust then you can make her spill the beans. You never know which of those girls is slut like Sandhya”.

That’s it, I lost my patience. I asked him, “How many boyfriends did Sandhya have in the past?” “One” he replied. “How many girlfriends you had in your past Varun?” I asked. He showed that pride in his face again and replied, “Three to four, I don’t exactly remember”

I asked, “Now tell me Varun, who is a slut? You or Sandhya”

This made him silent for a while. He started thinking about it. He didn’t speak for a while. I believed he got his message. But Varun was not the kind of a guy who would remain silent.

Compressing his rage, he replied, “For man, its different. It doesn’t matter if we sleep around with few girls. Our repo is not going to get spoiled even if we sleep around”.

I realized, there is nothing that can put this man down. He is rigid on his thoughts.

I said, “You know what? You are right. 2 States is not a book for you. You need to read Neha’s Diary.”

He asked showing interest, “What’s it about?”

I replied, “It’s about Neha”

He said, “Where can I buy it?” I said, “Not published yet”. He asked “Who wrote it?” I said “Not written yet”. He asked, “How do you know about it if it’s not written?” I didn’t say a thing.

There was a moment of silence. We both realized we are starting to offend each other. But he was not able to hold his curiosity much longer. He took a deep breath trying to gather some courage to ask me about it. He said, “As we have some time, why don’t you tell me about it”.

I figured that this story about Neha has to be told, especially to the people like him.

“Come on let’s start bro, “A long... long... time ago, there was a girl named Neha” what happens after that, ha… ha… ha…”, He said with his wicked smile, mocking me, simultaneously.

I said, “We don’t have to go much long back. It happened 48 hours ago when Atul’s mom came up with a well laid plan to convince him to get married. Atul was a very smart and hardworking guy. He never found time for dating or movies or any such thing. He realized his responsibilities when his dad passed away when he was 14 years old. His mom raised him with good manners and surrounding. He came to….”.

 

“Hold on… Hold on…” he interrupted me. “I thought this story is about Neha. Now who is Atul?” he asked

Touching the edge of fury I replied, “Would you please let me tell?” He leaned back in a defensive gesture with regards to my reaction.

After an intense stare and a bitter pause, I continued, “He came to Ahmedabad for his work. He was a senior system designer in a multinational firm. He use to stay with his cousin Uday and his best friend Sahil. Atul was very serious about his work. He loved his mom as she was the only one in his life. His mom use to call him every day. Even for small family decisions, she use to call him and take his opinion. His mother was so happy and proud with her one and only kid. She only had one concern about Atul. Atul was single and showed least interest in getting married. It might be because of all the responsibilities he handled from such a young age. Marriage was an everyday discussion for him and his mom over the phones.

Two days ago, she got the universally approved best weapon to convince his son to get married. “I am the luckiest woman in the world to have a son like you”, she said with a weeping voice. “But I am not sure when God has written my time” she said with her tone of voice getting thinner. “What are you talking about” Atul asked. She said, “I only have one wish that I could see my grandchildren before I die”

By this time Atul realized what his mother’s move was. He finally got into the trap and said, “Fine Maa. I hear you. I promise I will find your daughter in law very soon”. His mom’s mission got accomplished and she couldn’t hide her joy. She ended the conversation before Atul change his mind. Atul walked out to the balcony, starting to work on the plan of getting married. He rested his arms on the back of his head trying to relax his muscles while walking. Atul never saw anything around him. His eyes were always covered with his work. That day Atul paid attention to something for the first time. There was an old apartment opposite to his house. The paints of the house were faded and there were many patches of the wall fallen down. It looked like a strong wind would bring down that damaged house on the ground. That was the only house in the surrounding that was not renovated for years of its construction. The owner had taken some pain to construct an extra room on the terrace for which the stairs were passing from the outside. Atul can clearly see the door of the owner but only the stairs of the top floor. There was just a 100 foot distance from Atul’s balcony and door of that house.

That day Atul just noticed a pair of foot walking down the stairs. Those feet were fair like they are washed with milk every day. He didn’t take long to figure out; those pair of feet was of a beautiful girl. Atul had never seen such a beautiful girl in his life. She wore pink and was carrying a pink colour hand bag. She was walking so softly that it felt like she was taking care that the ground does not get hurt. A strange shine was reflecting from her eyes that Atul could not leave unnoticed. Her hair was tied in such a way that her ears were barely seen and the long knot resting on her left shoulder. A few curls trying to touch her cheek made her the prettiest girl in the world. Atul didn’t even take a second to fall in love with that girl. He just felt one thing about the looks of that girl. Her beauty seems incomplete. Atul tried really hard but could not figure out what was missing. Atul was desperate to find out the missing part of her beauty. Something that bugged him from the moment she appeared to him.

She got down from the stairs and knocked the owner’s door. Atul was still looking at her while she was knocking the door. There was no response for about a couple of minute. She still kept knocking. After a while, the door opened a little that one could peek out a face. As assumed, a face just came out from that partially opened door. It was the house owner. There was darkness inside the room at 9 AM in the morning as all the windows were closed. It clearly proved that the owner was not a socio-friendly man. He wore a white dirty t-shirt which was not enough to hide his big fat belly and those man boobs. He wore a short that was not long enough to cover the exhibition of hair all over his leg. His red eyes were the proof of the hangover from last night.

“I want to move out from here” the girl said to her house owner with a commanding stance. The owner least bothered about it said, “Ok go ahead. You can leave”. She requested, “Please give me back the deposit of 50000 Rupees that I paid when I moved in”. He, ‘not very cheerfully’ said, “We talked about this. We have an agreement for a year. You can come after one year for the money”. “Without that money how could I get another place to stay” she asked. He replied holding the door the way it was, “who is asking you to move out? Your mother said you will be staying here as you don’t have anywhere else to go.”

There was a moment of pause. Strangely the girl was not able to counter anything for his reply. Running short on courage, she kept her eyes down. She was trying to avoid an eye contact with him. Then she said, “I am having problem staying here. So please give me my deposit money as I want to move out”.

With an ugly smile the owner replied, “What problem do you have?” The girl said nothing. Smiling wickedly he again asked, “Tell me what problem you are having and I will give your money back”. He kept smiling and kept looking at her like he was picturing her naked. Finally she was tired of his staring that made her uncomfortable and walked away.

Atul noticed something fishy but didn’t pay much attention as he was lost in her beautiful eyes. “Time to go!” a voice came from behind. It was Uday reminding him about the office as all of them worked in the same place. They use to share a single bike ignoring the traffic rule and thought quiet economically. Atul turned around to find the girl she saw in the opposite house but didn’t find her. She completely occupied Atul’s mind that he was not able to focus on anything.

After seeing the girl, first time in his life, Atul felt that how alone he was. A feeling of sadness and happiness came together into his heart; happiness of seeing the most beautiful girl in the world and the feeling of sadness whether he will be able to find her again or not. He kept thinking about the missing part of the beauty of her face. It turned Atul really sad and frustrated.

Traffic always seems heavy in the morning. The cars frustrating to move and the bikes juggling between them making their own way through. He was on his bike with Uday and Sahil in the traffic. He didn’t even see the time passing by him because his mind was totally consumed by her thoughts.

It is normal, whenever a guy stops at the signal; it’s in his blood to check out the people beside him expecting to see some hot girl. It was Uday’s duty to check out and notify the others. Luckily what Uday found drew Atuls attention. “Check it out bro… 9 O Clock” Uday said in excitement like he found a treasure. Atul involved in a deep thought about the girl he saw next door said, “Not interested today”.

Suddenly a sweet voice on his left made him break his series of thoughts and caught his attention. “School jaa rahi hai k nahi bachi?” (Is your kid going to school or not), a voice of a girl showing concern. He realized she was the same girl Uday was asking to check. He turned around to see her face. It turned out to be his lucky day. She was the same girl next door that he saw from the balcony. She was riding a pink colour ‘scooty pep’ which is considered the favourite for most of the girls. “Haa bitiya!” (yes dear), a middle aged woman replied with whom she was having a conversation. From her dress she looked like a beggar. Her saari was too old to shine its colour and her hair was so brown that it looked like it wasn’t washed since centuries. Her face and hands were covered with dirt. Unexpectedly tears were rolling out from her eyes while talking to the girl. She started crying and said in a weeping voice, “Agar tum nahi hoti to meri beti kabhi school dekh bhi nai paati” (If you weren’t there, my daughter would have never seen a school).

Few superstitions and discriminations still live in Indian mind these days. No one even dare to talk to a beggar these days. Talking to the underprivileged people means you are from the same category. The girl was carrying a pink designer hand bag that didn’t look much expensive. She opened the bag in a hurry as the signal was about to go green. She took out a 500 rupee note from her hand bag without lot of search which usually most of the girls do when they are not intending to pay while on a date with boys. She handed it without even a second of hesitation and started her bike with the self-start button. The signal was already green. “Bachi K liye kitaabe khareed lena” (Buy the required books for your daughter) she said before pulling the lever and catching the green light.

The woman walked away with a smile wiping her tears. This was a very touching moment for Atul. He was very impressed by everything that just happened in front of him. That was the exact moment when he fell in love with that girl. A strange kind of pain just came up in his heart. His state of mind was such that he wanted to cry but couldn’t cry and he wanted to smile but couldn’t smile. He felt like the stone in his heart started melting. It seemed like he just met the second most amazing woman in the world, as the first one was his mother. His hands and legs went numb and he just kept staring at the back of her bike, unable to move, unable to think and unable to react to anything. Atul always believed that God gives a beautiful heart to the person with ugly face. Finally he met a girl with beautiful heart and beautiful face.

Atul didn’t even notice the traffic piling up behind him and the rattling of angry vehicle horns until Uday tabbed him from back to drive. Her face was not going to go away that fast from his mind.

The first think what Atul do after reaching work was open his laptop and work till he hear the 1 o clock beep for lunch. But that day was going to be a bit different than the rest of the days. He didn’t remember what he was looking at, as his head rested on his arm and a smile on his face with his mind losing control second by second. Suddenly a beep caught his attention that came on his desktop messenger. It was from his boss saying “I want to see you in my cabin”. After that he realized that he forgot his laptop. The message from his boss work like a shudder to his mind and brought him back to the reality. As he was walking towards his boss’s cabin, Sahil who sat in the front row caught his hand. “Don’t forget your laptop when you are called by your supervisor” said Sahil. Atul wondered how he knew that he was called by his supervisor. Atul said, “but ha… how do…” before he finished, Sahil replied, “I am in the loop bro. Our boss is still learning the features of the new messenger so probably he kept the whole staff in cc”. And no one on earth would like his colleagues to know about the invitation from his boss for the morning greeting. He exclaimed, “Ohh that moron! Why doesn’t someone teach him” After a pause for deep breath, he continued, “Hey dude I just forgot my…” before he could finish, Sahil replied, “I know, you left it in charging. I noticed when we were leaving the house. What’s wrong with you today?” Evil Sahil knew that Atul forgot his laptop and didn’t take the pain to remind him. Ignoring Sahil’s evilness, he replied, “I don’t know man. From the time I saw that girl over our balcony, I just lost my mind completely”. Sahil turned his chair with surprise and pulled Atul to the chair in front of him forcing him to sit. He asked, “Which girl?” Atul replied, “That same girl we met in the traffic signal; the one who gave 500 bucks to the beggar. She lives next door”. Before the conversation could end, they heared a voice, “Mr. Atul? The boss wants to see you”. They peaked over the cabinet and saw boss’s secretary looking straight towards them. Atul stood up in a panic fearing the secretary might find him chit chatting with Sahil. He walked straight to the cabin with a curiosity and fear on his face. As soon as he opened the door, the entire office echoed with a firing voice of his boss saying, “How many times do I have to tell you….” and the door closed before anyone could hear  the further conversation. That’s right. Every office has a tradition of greeting the co-workers with ‘good Morning’. But Atul’s boss greets him with this same exact line every day, “How many times do I have to tell you”. Sahil kept looking at the cabin door curious to know what is going to happen. From three of them, Sahil was the evil most. He was the one who pushes his friend to the trap and he was the one who brings them out of it. All and all he was a very good friend to them. After nearly 15 minutes, Atul came out of the boss’s cabin. He looks around and noticed everyone was looking at him. That means everyone knew that he got a wipe from his boss. He shot a wide flashing smile to everyone, trying to hide the embarrassment.  He realized it was not working and he jumped towards his seat avoiding any eye contacts. Out of everyone, Sahil was most curious about what happened to Atul. “Hey…” Sahil said turning around trying to peak up to Atul sitting behind, but was interrupted by the boss. “Atul” the boss called and walked towards him. Boss stood near Atul’s seat blocking Sahil’s face. “What I would suggest is today you sit with Neha and use her laptop to finish up the designs before leaving. And next time if you have a shoulder pain, please take a leave and stay at home. And I would request management to provide you with a light weight laptop so you won’t hurt your shoulders while carrying your laptop to office”. No one else but Sahil understood what just happened. Then Atul saw Sahil’s face with a witty smile that peaked out just over the shoulder of the boss who was standing in between. The boss said, “Follow me”. Probably he was going to take Atul to Neha’s desk. As they went, Sahil showed thumbs ups to Atul appreciating his smartness, and Atul shedding his angry expression on him. “Atul! Meet Neha” The boss said as they reached to Neha’s desk about which Atul was unaware of. He turned around and saw the same girl next door in front of him. A bad day at office suddenly turned out to be a best day. Atul was barely able to move his eye balls away from her. Finally he came to know her name. “Atul” he heard someone calling beside him. It was the voice of his boss that again helped him to snap back to reality from his beautiful dream. Atul turned his head to him in a shock and said, “Excuse me sir?” “Did you hear what I said?” his boss said. He repeated, “I said, I don’t want any excuse this time”. Atul just skipped the first time his boss said that line.

Finally the moment arrived for which Atul was waiting for. His boss walked away. “Hi. I am Atul” he said with a big smile on his face and his arm forward to shake Neha’s hand. It looked like Neha was not that happy to see Atul. She said, “Neha” and turned towards her desktop keeping Atul hanging. Atul didn’t felt insulted at all as his heart was full with love. He sat beside the only chair that was near Neha and opened her laptop staring at Neha the whole time while doing this. Atul’s dream girl was sitting right beside him. There was no chance that Atul would miss this opportunity. Obviously he have to start somewhere. Neha was a bit uninterested so Atul had to initiate the conversation. Atul asked, “Are you new here? I’ve never seen you before” She kept her eyes on her computer and replied in a very low and a defensive tone, “I just joined 3 weeks ago”. Atul was not intending to give up. He asked, “So… How do you like this place?” Before Atul could finish his question, she said, “I am a little busy now”. That was a clear indication that she was not at all interested in Atul. Atul felt sad but didn’t show it. A sad feeling was just arising from his heart but wasn’t sure about it. Atul waited for 2 hours till the lunch time that she might possibly look at him once. Atul kept looking at her for 2 hours completely expecting a look or even a hello from her. Nothing happen.

By the time it was 1, everyone rushed for the canteen. So did Neha. She carried a few files that was on her table and walked away without looking at Atul who was dying for a glance from her.

“So you were saying something” said Sahil from behind while Atul was filling his cup with coffee. By the look of Atul, it seemed like he have lost all hope. He turned to Sahil and said, “You know the girl I was talking about; the girl next door; the one that I saw her from our balcony?” “Yes” a voice came from the side. It was of Uday. Atul looked at Sahil and said, “How did he know?” Sahil replied in excitement, “You have fallen in love, this is major. Everyone should know it.” Before his excitement went out of control, Uday said “Stop”. Then he turned to Atul and said, “You were saying”. Atul continued, “The girl about whom I was talking about is Neha. She was working in our office since past three week and I came to know today. She was staying next door since three week and I didn’t know. That’s so stupid of me.” Sahil said, “I agree”. Atul eye balled at him. Uday always gave genuine advice to any situation. He was right opposite of Sahil. He said, “If you like her and if you feel she is the one, then why don’t you go talk to her?” Uday was right from his part. Then Atul described, “I feel like she is a strange girl. She didn’t even talk to me the whole time when I was sitting there. Even I tried to have a conversation but she avoided completely. My best guess is, she is having an over possessive boyfriend who she is terrified of. She doesn’t even talk to anyone”. Sahil said pointing at a table, “yeah. I figured that”. Out of curiosity Atul looked over the table. He noticed Neha sitting and fumbling with a plate of rice with a spoon. The plate of rice was unmixed and Neha was playing with an absent mind. It looked like she was in a deep thought. Atul then continued, “Hey guys, when you look very closely to her shoulder, you will find a fresh bruise just nearby her collar born. It look emboss because she have a very delicate skin”.

Sahil and Uday looked at Neha to search the bruise but turned their eyes away before he noticed. Uday said, “You are right. May be she just got scratched by something while walking with that angry face ha… ha… ha…” He started laughing and stopped suddenly as Atul and Sahil didn’t find it funny. There was a moment of silence after that which indicated a deep thought running in the mind of three of them. As soon as Atul took the first sip of his coffee, Sahil caught him by his shoulder and said, “Do you really like her?” Atul said, “Ofcourse! I do like her.” Sahil was on the mark of playing a game that Atul and Uday were not aware of. Sahil said, “the things that you said, it’s the indication of attraction my brother”. Atul exclaimed, “What?” “Believe it or not bro, I once met a girl just like her two years ago. She was acting the same way Neha was acting” said Sahil. He said it so convincingly that it developed a state of curiosity in the minds of Atul and Uday. Atul asked, “What happen next?” Sahil replied, “These kinds of girls are not impressed by small talks. They really like a written message from the guy who they find attractive and in this case it’s you”. Sahil being a best friend, the duo have no reason to doubt him. Atul asked, “Are you sure about this?” Sahil replied, “Trust me. I have been doing this since my 1st break up”. Atul trying to take the next sip of his coffee and stopped near his lips. He went into a thought process about the things what Sahil said. A moment later, Atul threw his half-filled coffee cup in the garbage and said, “Well partner, consider it done”. Uday wondered what might be going on in Atul’s mind. He might have thought exactly like, “If Sahil can do it, why can’t I?” Sahil winked at Uday while Atul rushed to get a paper. Uday, to protect him from Sahil’s wicked plan, tried to stop him. Sahil pulled Uday towards him and whispered, “Do you think he is ever going to tell her how much he love her?” Uday came to know Sahil’s intention and stopped.

“Atul ran down to Sahil breathing heavily. “So what should I write in this?” Atul asked. He replied, “Just three universal words are enough to get any girl in this world, “I LOVE YOU” and she is yours. Atul with enormous confidence asked doubtfully, “Are you sure about this?” Sahil asked, “Do you want to see her dating some other guy?” He then wrote “I love you” in big calibri font. Atul’s doubtfulness turned confident, kept his pen in his pocket. Then he looked at Neha and said, “I am pretty sure about this”. Sahil motivating him said, “Go tiger. Go get her”.

Atul took two steps towards Neha like he was about to shit in his pants. So he stopped. Sahil wondered, “What happen?” Atul replied, “how should I give this to her. I feel awkward about this”.

Sahil came up with a new plan. He said, “Don’t worry. I am going to help you. As soon as she finishes her lunch, I will be walking towards her across the room. I will bump my hand over the files she is carrying. She will give an angry look at me. Then she will say, “don’t you have eyes”. I will blush an evil smile upon her and will walk away. By that time you run towards her fallen properties. You pick the paper one by one neatly. Girls are very particular about neatness and tidiness. Then she is going to think in her mind, “What an asshole that boy was who scattered my files. What a sweet guy this is who is helping me. If I marry this guy, he would take care of me just like this for my entire life. I really wish he propose me right now”. Once she finishes thinking all this, you are going to hand over this paper to her. She will read it and game over”

Atul didn’t spoke a word for next 10 seconds. He probably thought what a genius friend he had got. Atul got totally convinced and motivated. He did just what he always does; make his friends fall in trap.

Time came to execute the plan. Neha was about to get up and Sahil started to walk from the other side of the room. By the time Neha took 2 steps from the table she was sitting, Sahil bumped his hand to the files she was holding as planned. The file scattered on the floor. Neha started to pick up the papers. Atul hesitated to go for a few seconds as Neha herself altered the plan. She has to look at Sahil with angry expression but that didn’t happen. Finally Uday pushed Atul to go help her. From Uday’s push Atul got a thrust in his moment that he have to make his foot work to stop himself from falling on Neha.

Then something happen that no one expected. As soon as Neha heard the tap of Atul’s shoes, she screamed out loud. Her scream caught the attention of all the people in the canteen. Atul too got really nervous and terrified. She didn’t stopped even after noticing that it was Atul. Atul didn’t even bend to help her collect her papers and she kept screaming and kept pushing herself away from Atul. Then she started saying while screaming, “Please don’t touch me. Please leave me alone. Please don’t come near me. Somebody please help me. Please don’t touch me… please don’t touch me…” She kept saying this and dragged herself back towards the table. She literally reacted like Atul was there to kill her. Even Uday and Sahil were in shock after seeing this reaction. Everyone in the canteen knew Atul. Everyone in the canteen knew that Atul was not there to touch her or harm her. Everyone in the canteen speculated one thing, ‘that Neha was mentally unstable’. Atul picked up all the papers of the file from the floor and pointed towards her. He didn’t get too close to her fearing she might panic. Atul started saying, “I am helping you. I am helping you. Here are your papers, it ok. I won’t hurt you. No one will hurt you”. Listening to that, Neha stopped. She looked to the papers and Atul for a while. She became silent and stayed that way for a while. She might have realized that there is nothing wrong going on. Then she realized that she embarrassed Atul and herself. After a while she started crying loudly. She was crying because of the guilt of the overreaction she just showed. After that, no one dared to get close to her. She then wipes her tears. No one consolidated her or said anything to her. Even Atul was not able to get close to her. She cried for few minutes.

After a while, she pulled herself together. “I am so sorry…. I am so sorry… I didn’t mean to…” that’s all she said. She didn’t finish her statement. Uday gave a bitter look at Sahil and said, “This time, you sincerely screwed him”. When Neha stood up, everyone realized that everything was ok and they got back to what they were doing. Neha stood there for a while avoiding eye contact. That time she was a total mystery to Atul. Avoiding eye contact meant that she don’t want to be asked what happen to her. But she stood there like she was waiting for him to ask.

Atul was totally confused and kept looking at her. After a while Neha tried to leave the place. But Atul interrupted the way she was walking and said, “Excuse me. I want to give you something”. This turned Uday and Sahil’s eyes wide open. They prophesised the fact that Atul was about to give that letter containing “I LOVE YOU” to her. Before he told anything to her, Sahil interrupted. He looked at Neha and said, “Hey forget it. It’s nothing. He is just crazy.” Before Sahil could complete, Neha already started opening the folds of the letter. This situation face-palmed both Sahil and Uday. As soon as Neha opened the letter, Sahil disappeared from the place. Neha did not react with anything. She just kept looking at the letter. Atul saw a layer of anger building on her face. So did Uday and Sahil. Atul had no idea how she was going to react and kept looking at her. After a while Neha looked at Atul with red wet eyes full of exploding rage. This didn’t make Atul nervous but terrified. He started keeping baby steps backwards as it looked like she was going to drink his blood. As expected, she grabbed her shirt to the collar with a thrust, making Atul’s whole body numb. Atul looked like he was about to pee in his pants. Neha said with a fury in her eyes, “What the Fuck you think you are doing?” All three went flabbergasted after listening to this. Atul’s tongue was literally caught by a cat this time. Atul’s eyebrow remained raised and it didn’t take even a second for him to start sweating. A stream started flowing over his brows. He gathered some strength and said with a broken voice, “I mean it. I really love you”. Atul didn’t look away or backed out of his feelings. It looked like Atul like her face even when she was angry. She brought him close to her catching his collar and said with the same anger, “Ohh! If you think you love me, why don’t you come down to my place tonight and prove how much you love me”. Atuls heartbeat started rising. Sahil and Uday didn’t stop biting their nails. Atul was not able to speak anything to that while Neha waited for him to speak. After a while Neha pushed him from his collar and walked away without saying anything else. It clearly seemed like she supressed her anger to a great extend leaving Atul alive.

Neha didn’t spoke to anyone the whole day. Every day after work, Sahil, Uday and Atul use to go to a park to smoke and chill out the office stress by abusing their boss or talking about some thing or the other. They always share one cigarette in between three. That day, while sitting in the park, no one spoke anything. They were staring at the grass and looked like having a deep thought. After about 15 minutes, Uday said, “He is screwed”. Sahil replied raising his voice, “Hey don’t blame on me. I tried to stop him”. Uday broke out, “Who else should I blame. You were the one who brought your extra ordinary theories about your ex-girlfriend and manipulated him”. Defending himself, Sahil said, “Hey I didn’t have any idea that the girl was mentally sick and was going to scare the shit out of him”.

Noticing the raising tone, Atul said, “Stop it both of you. She is not mentally sick. I still love her”. This made both of them upset again. Sahil realized that Atul was completely possessed about Neha. He rested his arm on his shoulder and tried to explain him calmly, “Listen brother, She didn’t look normal to anyone in our office. Today everyone in the office was talking about her. Probably she is going to get fired if she remains the same”. Atul gave least interest to his talk and said, “I still don’t believe. My heart says, there is more to her than we saw her today”. Listening to this, Uday lost his patience and broke out, “Don’t you realize that she is a slut? Ignoring the fact of her strange behaviour, didn’t you notice that she openly invited you to her house? She said, “Prove how much you love me”, that means fuck her and then she will decide whether you are worth dating or not. She is a slut”.

Atul was not able to listen to this. His anger broke out. He caught his shirt collar and said, “Shut up. Mind your words. You have no right to accuse a girl of being a slut”. Uday realized that if he argues more it would get worse. So he didn’t spoke. Atul left his collar and adjusted his shirt trying to make it the way it was. Sahil then didn’t dare to speak anything. There was a moment of silence in between the tension. After a while Atul said as if he was addressing to both of them, “I am going to her house to night”. Uday stared at him. Then he spoke, “don’t forget to take your wallet with you. These kind of girls are not afraid to press rape charges at you if you don’t pay them in the end”.

The conversation ended with a bitter look from Atul to both of them.

Atul had no idea what he was going after. After the conversation with his friends, he was a bit confused. His mind kept changing from “to go” or “not to go”. By 9 at night, he totally lost his mind thinking about the same. His mind stopped from going but his heart didn’t allow him from thinking about anything else than Neha. Finally he decided to go. Unexpectedly he dressed up like he was going for a date. He wore a black suit and expensive shirt with a bow. He groomed himself like a shining pearl. To go at a girls place at night was a little out-cultured around the society. He walked through the main door and got inside the compound. He sneaked towards the stairs of Neha’s room very slowly. Suddenly a voice came from his back. “Who are you”? There was a fear and aggression in the voice like he had spotted an intruder in his house. Coincidently it was the owner of the house who came out to have a cigarette. Atul turned around and saw a fat man in his boxers and no shirt on, in a dim room light that was flooding out from the room. His face was not clearly seen in the dark. His chest was covered with black and grey hair. A sharp smell of alcohol can be felt just by looking at him. He pulled out a cigarette and stuck in in his lips. Atul saw his fat cheeks covered with light grey hair and his messy hair when he lit up the lighter and lit the cigarette. He took a deep breath and exhaled the smoke out which clearly indicated that he was not unaware that someone was trying to intrude. Atul got terrified and nervous. The owner walked towards him taking another puff of the cigarette. “It’s unmannered to walk into a girl’s house at the night time” he said while exhaling the smoke out on Atul’s face. He stood there in front of Atul for a while smoking. His intentions were to scare Atul away. “Now fuck off”. He said without making a way for Atul to go. Atul was terrified and stepped out from a foot space squeezing the owner’s fat belly and the concrete wall that stood beside him. It was like the owner intentionally did not move from the way so that Atul’s body get touched to him; sign of a pervert.

Atul went back to the balcony of his house waiting for the owner to finish his cigarette and get back in.

After a while Atul got the chance to sneak in. He went to Neha’s door. He stood there for a minute praying that he don’t screw up. He practiced a several time for what would be the opening statement for him to Neha. He finally gathered the courage to knock the door. He brought his palm up to tab the door. But he stopped before he tabbed thinking that it would be rude. He then used his figure elbows to knock the door. He knocked thrice and a ray of light came out from the crack door opening by itself. He figured that the door was not locked. He pushed gently and the door opened. The door looked like it was hanging to the hinges. He pushed the door open enough for him to get in. He pushed back the door from the inside thinking that it won’t be subtle to keep a girl’s house door open who lives alone. He observed that the door lock from the inside were broken. That means the door could not be locked from the inside. Atul felt strange about it. “Neha…!” He yelled through the house but there was only echo. All the lights were on in her house. It didn’t took him long to figure that the hall was empty. He looked across and found a way to the other room. “Neha…!” He called her again while walking to the next room figuring that she would be in that room. The hall was so small that it got full with just a single bed that was occupied. Atul stopped at the entrance of the next room to check whether Neha was in that room or not. Atul saw Neha’s back as she was sitting in the corner of the room facing a small temple. The temple was having a small statue of Lord Ganesha. Atul looked across the room and figured that that room was smaller than the hall. There was just a bed and a cupboard except the small temple that was in the opposite sides of the room. Atul heard a very thin sound of weeping which he figured was obviously from Neha. Atul knew that something was not ok. He called, “Neha”. Neha turned to Atul immediately. Atul could never forget that reaction Neha gave. She looked at Atul and smiled breathing heavily and tears in her eyes; seemed like she just looked at a ray of hope.

This reaction lasted not more than 3 seconds. The hope, smile and happiness vanished from her face. All of a sudden she got annoyed and asked Atul, “Why are you here? Why the fuck did you came?” Atul being nervous replied, “You called me while we were in the canteen remember?” She got up and said, “Get out of here. It’s too dangerous. You don’t know what you are dealing with”, and started pushing Atul out. Atul said, “Hey Neha. Please tell me what happen? What’s wrong?”. After a while she started freaking out. She started yelling, “Get out before he comes. He will kill you. Get out before he comes.”

While this was going on, a thick heavy voice echoed out of the corridor, “Neha baby……. Are you there? Look who is here?” Listening to this, Neha stopped. Her body went numb and she started dripping. She didn’t spoke anything but just kept looking at Atul for a while. Seeing Neha’s reaction, Atul’s spine got chilled.

“Where the fuck are you hiding you slut!!” the voice came again from outside. Neha pulled herself together and took Atul to the next room. She pushed Atul and said, “Quick, hide under the bed”. Atul was still wondering what was happening. Meanwhile the voice still kept coming from outside calling out “Neha…” with more aggression and anger each time. Neha forced Atul to hide under the bed. Neha said, “Do you really love me?” Atul replied, “With my whole heart”. Neha said, “I want a promise from you today”. Atul replied, “Name it”. She said, “No matter what happen today, whatever you hear today you will not come out of here”. Atul replied, “Neha but tell me what’s wrong?” Neha interrupted and said, “Atul please… For the sake of our love”. Atul was not able to ignore such a beautiful and innocent requesting expression from Neha. Atul held her hand and said, “For the sake of our love”.

Just after that second they heard a bang from the hall. It looked like someone had pushed the door too hard. Neha ran towards the hall. She saw a big fat man standing at the door and the door literally vibrating. It looked like he just kicked the door open. He threw the door back close.

Neha was terrified and was shaking. She kept clutching the tip of her t shirt she wore. She was calm by her expression because she knew crying or screaming was not going to help and probably may cause harm to her. “Come closer”, the man said gesturing with his figures. Neha didn’t move. Seeing this, the man walked forward slowly to implicate fear in her mind. Neha still didn’t move because she knew that walking to the other room may be dangerous for Atul hiding under the bed. He came very close to Neha. He smelled like garbage. He wore a dirty stripped t-shirt which was torn from many places and looked like it wasn’t been washed for years. His face was covered with beard and his skin was too brown and oily. He wore a dirty white trouser that had dirt stains all over it. It looked like the man use to sleep on the road. The trouser was so dirty that it has lost his original white colour. His body was covered with the smell of sweat and alcohol. He had thick moustache and less hair. He had wide dirty lips and red tobacco stained teeth. His palms were so black like he worked with grease.

Neha didn’t spoke a word but kept looking at him with fear. The man said walking towards her, “You didn’t fix the lock yet? It’s good. I don’t have to break the door everyday”. Neha’s eyes ran with tears but had no strength to move or run. He continued, “I am proud of you. You didn’t file a police complaint against me. You are a smart girl. You know what happens if you file a complaint against me. I have to tell the whole story. It gets published in the newspaper. Then everyone will know your secret. No one will ever marry you”. He stopped when he reached close to Neha. She was feeling his stinky breath on her face. She lowered her eyes and avoided eye contact. After a while he screamed, “Look at me”.

Neha terrified; looked at him. He gave a loud smash on her cheek. The slap was so hard that even Atul in the next room heard the echo. Neha started crying but didn’t move. She kept weeping but still didn’t say a word. The man said in a polite tone, “Why do you want to leave from here? Am I not taking good care of you?” He paused. Then he again continued, “The house owner told me you were asking for the security deposit back as you want to change your apartment. What is the problem here?” Neha filled with shock looked at him. She didn’t utter to make a noise except crying. Neha was weak against the big body of the man. He didn’t regret anything and took out a cigarette and a lighter from his trouser pocket. He lit the cigarette moving back like he was trying to avoid exhaling the smoke on Neha’s face. His hands were shaking while he was lighting the cigarette. It may be because there was a guilt feeling in his heart while Neha cried in front of him. He walked over the room scratching his head and smoke coming out of his mouth while Neha cried. After a while he slapped her again. This time it was harder than the previous. Neha fell down on the floor. He was going crazier and crazier every second. A light stream of blood came out from Neha’s mouth while she kept crying. It was not the guilt of hitting an unarmed weak girl that made that man anxious. It was that; why was his first hit not too strong to through her on the floor. It was a mixed feeling of pain, agony and humiliation that flowed in Neha while she cried. A feeling of losing all hope and enduring the pain without any fight back.

He said, “I have been to many places, spend many nights fucked many bitches. But this place is like heaven to me”. He walked towards the bed and sat down in comfort. Then he leaned forward and said, “Come closer”. Neha didn’t move and cried in the same position. Suddenly he grabbed her hair that was tied back. He grabbed a bunch of it and pulled her towards him. Neha screamed with pain but that didn’t stop him from doing it.

His eyes were red shot and there was a dead smell of alcohol from his mouth. Neha’s face was all wet with tears and sweat. She knew that there was no use in begging to the psychopath in front of him.

He brought his face closer to her and said in a low tone, “Just now your house owner told me that a boy was trying to come up here and meet you, who was he?” He screamed, “Who was he?” Neha stopped sobbing and looked in his eyes. He continued, “Was he your boyfriend? Answer me. Was he your boyfriend?” He shook her head holding her hair to make her feel pain and said, “Listen to me very carefully. Today I am going to brand it on your chest that YOU ARE MY BITCH. You understand?” He slapped him again and she fell on the floor. He said, “I am going to brand it on your chest today so that no one will ever dare looking at you. She cried resting her arm on the floor. He pulled her again by her hair and said, “Tell me who he is”. Neha didn’t spoke a word. She kept her mouth shut just to protect Atul.

The man was turning into a monster each second. He started smiling and said, “Remember the beating you got with the belt yesterday tied to the bed all naked? I love doing it. Don’t make me do that again. Be a good girl and tell me his name. Who have you told about our relation?”

Neha was still dead silent and didn’t utter a voice. His threats started to reach an ugly limit. He said, “You are going to tell me his name or by the daybreak, you will be walking through these streets all naked; with no cloths on your body, in front of the entire city”.

It was a heart breaking pain for Neha. She still didn’t speak anything. A sacrifice that she is giving for Atul who she didn’t even know was worth or not. She was in a state of mind where her trust was broken and lost in humanity. She was helpless carving to die than to face this kind of humiliation.

He pushed her to the floor. He sat back relaxed. Then he said, “Strip….”.

She looked at him scared. He screamed, “Strip…”

Suddenly she heard a banging voice. As she raised her eyes to see what happen. She screamed of shock by seeing the man falling towards her.  Then she saw Atul standing beside the bed holding Neha’s office laptop in his hand. It looked like he had hit the man with the laptop behind the back of his head. The man fell of the floor. They kept looking at him. He was not moving. He didn’t get up. They waited for few seconds for him to get up. But he didn’t move at all. Neha looking at him broke down into tears. She screamed a big cry from the depth of her heart. She cried out loud. Atul threw the laptop on the bed and held Neha by her shoulders.

Atul said trying to calm her down,

“Shhhhh.. Neha.

Don’t cry.

Calm down.

It’s ok…

Everything is ok.

I am here.

No one will hurt you.

No one is going to hurt you when I am here”.

Neha couldn’t stop crying. She threw herself in Atul’s arms and hugged her tight. She kept crying. Atul wiped her tears and she kept crying. That went on for 2 hours.

I wonder how better Neha had felt while she was crying; and how better Atul had felt with the love of his life so close to his heart.

 

“Did he die?”

 

“(Snapping figures) Excuse me!! Hello!! Was he dead?” said Varun loudly trying to draw me out of my thoughts.

 

“Huh?” I muttered as I didn’t pay attention to what he said. Then I realized that I was not thinking the whole thing. I was telling it to Varun.

He repeated again, “Did he die?” I asked “Who?”

He replied, “The man who Atul hit with the laptop. Did he die?”

I got back my attention. I said, “Oh! No. He didn’t die. He laid there unconscious”.

Varun asked, “What happen next?”

I said, “Next morning they went to the police station. Atul convinced Neha to lodge a complaint. She was afraid at first but she did. We had to wait five hours for someone to get our complaint lodged. It was the morning time so there were not much people to attain us. It was 9.30 in the morning till someone showed up. Fortunately the man was locked up in the jail. It didn’t make much difference to him. He was laughing, enjoying with his buddies inside, abusing Neha for a while, finally he got tired and took a good nap”.

I stopped and took a pause. I was talking for an hour. Our station was just 30 minutes away. And finally my plan failed. I was not able to take up my two hours sleep. I took out and opened my bottle of water which I had tucked in my bag. I took a massive sip of it. Varun kept watching me as he was expecting to know more. He didn’t spoke anything as he felt he don’t want to interrupt me from drinking water. I closed the bottle and tucked it back.

Varun was not able to leave his curiosity alone. I didn’t speak for a while which made Varun more anxious.

He asked, “So what happen to the man?”

“Oh! The man!” I said, “It turns out that the man was chased by the police for six months. His name was Vasu. It’s strange that he was working as a labour in the garage that was next to Neha’s apartment. He also use to smuggle alcohol to Gujarat and supply it in double price. There is a lot of money in that. He was also very close to Neha’s house owner and spends every evening over there boozing and gambling in cards. It was not until yesterday the cops came to know that he was involved in many other crimes when he got arrested. It came out that before Neha moved into that apartment, there was one other girl living there who left the town few months ago as she was raped every day by Vasu. Vasu was also responsible for the rape of many unmarried women who use to live there as paying guest in the surrounding. No complaints were lodged against him. He was doing it since one year. After raping the girls he use to steal their cell phones, laptops and money for gambling. He always use to target unmarried women staying alone because those women won’t file a complaint as they were unmarried and they fear humiliation”.

I looked at Varun. He was shaken after he heard it. His laughter and fun just vanished for a while. He asked, “How did you know all this?”

I replied, “Well there is the real twist in the story. We were waiting in the police station and Vasu was locked up. He was ‘kind of’ angry with us. He kept abusing Neha constantly. He didn’t stop. Everyone in the station knew what he did to Neha. I believe that was the toughest time for Neha. She didn’t speak a word and kept listening to him with her eyes down. Vasu kept shouting, “Randi hai tu. Tere se koi shaadi nai karega (You are a whore. No one will ever marry you)” and kept laughing. Some of his statements were so bad that even his cell mates bowed their head down with shame. Do you know one thing Varun? Angels and Demons live among us. You might have only heard the stories of Demon possessing a human body. But sometimes it happens that Demons appear to us in Flesh and blood. Vasu was one of them. He never kept quiet. He kept bragging about the women he raped. He was not shutting up at all. As he was shouting to Neha about it, he got a big punch on his nose right between the iron bars. It was none other than his wife. Then she spit on his face. It was an insult to him. Vasu’s wife came with her daughter to see him. Vasu became quiet. He didn’t spoke as he cared about his daughter. He was concerned that his daughter should not know what her daddy was. It’s true. A daughter can calm a monster down. But the monsters don’t see other women as someone’s daughter. Vasu’s wife was filled with extreme anger. From her face Atul was able to make out that she really wanted to kill him. She didn’t only because of her daughter. She was breathing heavy full of rage and wide open eyes. It looked like she wanted to say many things to him. She wanted to curse him with her whole heart. “Narak me marega tu! Jaanvar! (You will die in hell. You animal)”, that was the only thing she said. She suppressed her anger and didn’t say a word more than that. She then turned to Neha and fell down on her knees crying. She took out her anger crying. She kept saying, “Maaf kar de beti (Forgive me child)” There was a little girl standing next to her in a school uniform with a school bag. She didn’t have any idea what was going on. Still, she came to Neha and hugged her. Neha blinked her eyes and gave her a smile. Atul saw that smile and he went crazy. Then he figured out what was missing in her beauty. It was her smile. That was the first time he saw Neha smiling. Trust me Neha’s smile was the most beautiful in the world”.

I looked at Varun. He was listening with all eagerness. I said, “Do you know who they were? The woman was the same beggar whom Neha gave 500 bucks in the morning. And the little girl was her daughter. One day Neha saw that lady and her daughter begging on the street. From that point on Neha started helping her daughter for her education. She took all her expenses and school fees along with good uniform and new books. It turns out that Neha was taking care of the education of Vasu’s daughter. After facing such a trauma she was still able to look at the innocence of that little girl and smiled. Neha applied for a scholarship for that girl from an NGO. So it means Neha will be taking care of her education till the time she gets a degree. One thing was clear that day. You can hurt and conquer a beautiful body, trash it and destroy it. But you can never conquer a beautiful. Neha was not a virgin. But her heart was pure as a pearl. May be that’s the reason Atul got married to Neha”.

Varun was shocked listening to this. His eyes were wide open. He didn’t dare to speak a word. He kept staring at me.

I continued, “So Varun. You are too concern whether the girl is virgin or not. And if she is not a virgin you brand her a slut. Many a time’s girls trust the wrong person. When that person is done with her, he calls her a slut. Some boys try to get a girl. But that girl has more important priorities and she doesn’t pay attention to you. So she becomes a slut. Girl wearing short skirts becomes a slut the moment we look at her. If a girl has a male friend you call her a slut.

Have you ever noticed how that girl is, as a person? What she is inside her heart? You call her a whore once and the society brands it permanently. You are a male, that doesn’t mean you have the right to judge a girl. You become a male when you stop considering female as an accessory. They have feelings too; the same way like we do”.

There was a silence for a moment. Varun was not able to look in my eyes at all. I could clearly see a tear rolling out from his eyes. There was a moment of silence. I can feel the ignorance vanishing from Varun’s mind. A silence of guilt was felt in him.

After a while, he asked, “Where is Neha now?”

I replied, “Neha once told, she haven’t slept properly since three weeks. So she is in a deep sleep ignoring the whole world, her problems, her past, the society; safe and sound in Atul’s arms”.

Then he asked, “Where is Atul now?”

I replied, “Right in front of you telling Neha’s story to you”.

This was a shock to him. He didn’t see that coming. His eyes and mouth were open wide. He asked in surprise, “Oh my God! I can’t believe I was talking to Atul all this time. I didn’t see that coming”.

He then became silent. His eyes were still full of tears and his expression suggests that he was in a deep thought.

It was Baroda station. I woke Neha up and we headed towards the door. Before we could get out of the door someone pushed us to make way for him to get out. It was Varun. He was getting out of the train with his luggage.

I asked, “Hey Varun. I thought you said you were going to Mumbai. Why are you getting down in Baroda?”

He took a pause and replied confidently, “Actually Sandhya lives here in Baroda. I think I will go talk to her”.

Finally my message was conveyed to him loud and clear. I was happy that mine and Neha’s story made a difference in someone’s life.

I nodded at him with a smile. He was still holding the book “2 states”. He showed me the book and nodded back. Then he turned around and was lost in a crowd.

We went to our home. I was sure my mom will be happy. As soon as we reached home, my mom opened the door with a face full of joy and happiness. She finally got what she wanted; me getting married. That day my mom’s smile was having no limit. As soon as Neha saw my mom, she got nervous and said, “Aunty…. I…” My mom pampered her cheeks and said, “You don’t have to explain anything. I know everything. I am really proud of my son”.

So that’s it. End of the story. My mom accepted Neha as her daughter. Till date, many girls in India are not accepted by the society just because she was sexually assaulted. May be that’s the reason why many sexual assaults are gone unreported. And that’s the reason why many rapists are roaming freely without any fear among us. A statistics says, “92 women are raped in India every day”.

We can’t change the number anyways. But we remember one thing, it’s not her fault.


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