Rated: E · Short Story · Romance/Love · #1790514
A sweet short story...albeit with a twist!
|"Shhh..Mom’s going to hear us! I cannot let you be seen! Go!! Arjun! Please...Ok listen, I love you too..now go!!” Just as Chanchal closed her bedroom window, a cool breeze wafted in from her open door. A lingering aroma came with it. Before she could decide what it was, Chanchal’s mother stormed in. Thats when she realized what the smell was. 'Aamchur!' Dry mango powder. It was at this precise time of the year when her mother dried raw mangoes and ground them to a fine powder for use in the coming year. Chanchal especially loved the bits of 'Kairi' that her mother discarded. They tasted divine with salt! Arjun loved them too!|
The memory of Arjun jolted her out of her haze and she tuned into her mother going on about some more Kairis that she needed for Aamchur. “The vendors these days are all fools I say! They don’t know how to sort the fruit or what to sell for spices! Go on Chanchal, be quick! Take your cycle to the market and buy me ten kilos of perfect 'Totapuri Kairi' now, will you. Here’s some money.”
Chanchal looked at the money, and instead of being annoyed at the task given to her, she was more than happy that Arjun had gone unnoticed. She now had one more chance at meeting him at the market!
Arjun, on the other hand, was enjoying the beginning of summer and seemed more carefree than usual. It was unusual, even for him to drop in on Chanchal unannounced, but the rush that it gave them was beyond anything he had ever experienced. Chanchal was his love, someone he could give up anything for! Feeling bolder with every step, Arjun returned home. “Ah! My son! I have waited all morning for you! Come come..join me for a quick cup of tea. I have news to share.” The familiar smell of cheap tobacco engulfed Arjun as he pulled up a chair next to his father, a Gram Sarpanch.
“We have decided to invest in a new business and I thought you may be interested. You are, after all, my Heir!" His ramblings meant a lot to him, so Arjun indulged his father every once in a while. He knew he was an Heir to an ‘Empire’ which amounted to almost nothing. Although they had no market debt, their whole business put together amounted to barely anything.
Well, such was life back then, for both Arjun and Chanchal. Raised in strict, but loving middle class families, they both knew their boundries. They knew that love was unacceptable and having an affair with someone was taboo. So taboo, that all the tender loving care would evaporate in the same instant that their parents found out.
And so the affair continued, in a slow clandestine way. Chanchal did more chores than were necessary. She walked the dogs only looking for a chance to spot Arjun at the Ajmer Club, where he worked as a handy man. Arjun, though sincere at his job, was always looking for a chance to peek out..just in case Chanchal came along walking the dogs. On the eve of full moon, they both went for the annual fair at Pushkar, almost an hour’s drive from home. Amidst the bright colours, blaring loudspeakers and tempting delicacies, they kept craning their necks just for one glance..one glance of each other. But the fair was magnificently huge, and fate eluded them. Both, Chanchal and Arjun returned home tired and deeply miserable.
“Chanchal!! “ Chanchal scampered down the narrow stairs to answer her oldest brother. “We are moving to a new house little sister!! Fate has finally favoured us. We entered into a new business last year and the benefits have been tremendous. Our sorry days are over! Oh! And do you know Sureshji? The Gram Sarpanch? He has been incredible in this journey. It has been his farsightedness that brought us this good fortune! Now, we are both rising faster than we imagined! “
Her brother went on about Sureshji’s family, but Chanchal was in another world by then. She had heard all that she needed to hear. Could this be true? Arjun’s Father and her family in a business together? Did this mean.....that she would see him ? Chanchal banished these thoughts from her head. She was almost dizzy with anticipation!
Arjun was busy helping out with the moving himself. They were also moving to a spanking new flat in a posher area or Ajmer. Chanchal and he were vaguely aware that they would be living closer now. It was another change in their lives that came unexpectedly. So unexpectedly, that they were caught completely off guard!
It was an early summer morning and the sounds emanating from the Durgah or Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti had a pristine feel about them. The gentle calls to Allah filled the crisp early morning air and the flutter of pigeons completed the orchestra. There was a flurry of activity in Chanchal’s house. The kitchen was buzzing with unusual activity. Dishes were being made by the score. Sweet meats were decorated prettily in bone china. Aboli, Chanchal’s mother, was scurrying about overseeing the preparations. Someone important was expected for breakfast. Everything had to be just right.
Chanchal asked her brother what was going on. He just smiled at her lovingly and patted her on the head. Strange. With growing uneasiness Chanchal entered the kitchen. She knew her mother would never hide anything from her.
“Mother, what is this all about? Whom are we expecting for breakfast?”
As suddenly as the sky opens in a thunderstorm, Aboli started weeping. Stranger, thought Chanchal. Before her mind could conjecture another possibility, her mother hugged her tight and said “ Chanchal, Beta, Sureshji and his family are coming for breakfast. Your father knows all about the feelings you have for Arjun. It is your good luck that he is Sureshji’s son. There cannot be a better match for you. “
Chanchal stood frozen on the spot. This was too good to be true. How and when did the Gods decide to smile on her? What had she done so right to deserve such a kind fate? She was going to wed Arjun! Her ears were filled with the melody of her mother’s words. Then it struck her! Arjun knew! Of course, by now he must be knowing too! How happy must he be!? Her entire self was flooded by a torrent of emotions! Suddenly, she wanted to sit down. To get her bearings. To start getting ready!
There Arjun was experiencing the same surge of happiness! He knew he would have fought to his last breath for Chanchal. But this was inconceivable! His parents were arranging his wedding with her! All he wanted to do was to dance!
The next few days were a blur. The engagement was a quick but boisterous affair and was attended by family and friends on both sides. It was like the unfolding of a fairy tale. Strangely though, Chanchal and Arjun were both quiet. Maybe they were overwhelmed by the suddenness of all this. Maybe they were used to secret silent meetings.
The wedding was fixed for the coming summer. Now officially engaged, Arjun and Chanchal were allowed to meet once in a while. Telephone calls were possible. Although the community did not encourage it, young couples did meet quite frequently during the courtship. And so did Arjun and Chanchal.
Although it seemed like the most natural thing to meet, Arjun was suddenly uncomfortable in Chanchal’s presence. He probably sensed the same discomfort in Chanchal, for he asked her one day,” You seem awfully quiet. Is everything alright?”
“Oh Yes! Just fine”, she lied.
Fact was, their rosy romance was beginning to lose its splendour. They spent long afternoons at small hotels, quietly focussing on the menu. Suddenly, so much time, and nothing left to say. They were so used to expressing themselves in less than ten seconds, that suddenly all this time seemed never ending.
A couple of months went by and Chanchal took up a Montessary teaching course for a month. She needed to get her mind off marriage for a bit. She was sure Arjun would be supportive. “Why exactly do you have to do this? You know you wont be working after the wedding right?” Said Arjun for the umpteenth time that afternoon. Again, Chanchal said the same thing,”Arjun, I just wanted to learn something. Why cant you just be supportive?”
Arjun had also started spending more and more time at work. He wanted to immerse himself in work so that he wouldn’t have to face his tumultuous emotions. Rani was another matter altogether.
She was kind, subdued and understood him so much better. Chanchal expected him to read her mind all the time. How was he to know what she was thinking about all the time? He felt so spent after just an hour with her! Rani, on the other hand, had no mind games, and really seemed to understand him. Genuinely.
As the date of the wedding neared, both grew increasingly irritable. Wasn't this their own dream? Their own 'Happilly Ever After?' Apparently not. Being in shackles helped their love bloom beyond limits. Now, being free, the mind wandered and love wasn’t so Rosy anymore. Both were afraid to admit defeat though. They really wanted this to work. But how?
Surprisingly, Chanchal took the first step.
“Arjun”, she started over a cup of tea at their favourite coffee shop, “I think we have a problem."
“Oh my God! You can sense it too! Thank God!”
“Well, yes. Apparently, we still like each other, but I don’t see the love I have always seen in your eyes before."
“ Chanchal, you are a fabulous person. But i don’t think marrying you is going to make either me or you very happy in the long run."
“I never thought this could happen to us Arjun” Chanchal wiped a stray tear rolling down her flushed cheeks. “ Although this feeling is mutual, it would pain me to see you go away. But I think this is the best for both of us.”
Just a conversation. And the hearts spilled out. Sometimes, a conversation is all it takes to break the silence. The painful months of silence were finally conquered by both.
The shackes were gone. But then, so was the love. Convincing their parents seemed like cake walk compared to the anguish they both suffered in trying to convince themselves.
Sometimes, love just isn’t the end.