LOVE IS THE STRANGE THING EVER TO HAPPEN TO AN INDIVIDUAL. POWER OF LOVE LIES..
|THE RHYTHM OF LIFE
31st December 2000 8 p.m.
No 16,Green Park Avenue New Delhi was full of activity. The spectacular fusion of artist and electricity in the form of well-lit villa with mercury lamps set the stage for celebrations.
The villa belongs to JP Khanna fondly called as JP, the richest man in Delhi who has re-defined Indian businesses with dynamic marketing and an element of extra care to the customers. He is the founder of Khanna Empire, which has grown magnanimously to the tune of Rs. 30,000 crores within 15 years.
Today the elite of Delhi gathered there to welcome the New Year as it was going on for several years since then. It is a kind of privilege to be there and Khannas were good hosts. Noted big shots and celebrities love to be part of the party of the millennium.
In the lawns of the villa, Akshay the only son of JP was sitting with his friends. Akshay, a phenomenon of ideal son, joined his father in business after his MBA from Harvard. Already he has created ripples in the industry circles with innovative practices.
‘Hello Akshay!’ Shifali greeted. ‘What are you doing in this corner when everyone is enjoying the party.’
‘Hi. You see these guys are busy with cards. I am watching them’ he replied staring at his friends who were completely involved in the card game.
‘Ok! Enjoy watching. Will talk to you later’ Shifali said before joining her friends.
‘Ok! See you later’ Akshay told.
Shifali, the talented, is the daughter of the Chopras, Uday and Reenu. Uday and JP are business partners with Uday supplying the spares of hardware sold by JP.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ JP’s voice resounded and someone from the kids group shouted what about children. Laughter vibrated ignited the pleasant atmosphere surrounding the villa. Then JP restarted, My dear children, ladies and gentlemen. Please have you dinner and continue our party. At the advent of new millennium I want to make an announcement. Thank you.’
Silence ran away with whispers and instincts of curiosity expressed by the people around. Guessing and gossiping always fascinates the elite. What JP is going to announce tonight? May be new venture? May be his retirement? Or may be Akshay’s marriage? If so who is that lucky girl? These sort of questions puzzled the curious minds which started thought processes instead of waiting for a couple of hours and let things unfold themselves. Strange are human thoughts and patterns!
Akshay was too puzzled with the announcement thing. As far as business is concerned, there is nothing to be announced publicly. Then what is going to be said by Dad. A thought in that direction disturbed his act of watching his friends playing cards. Then one of them packed and said ‘Come on. Its’ enough for the day now. Let’s have dinner and join the party’.
In the parties of the elite, there are categories like elders, the young and the kids. Though they party at the same venue, there are logical boundaries separating them. These logical boundaries are defined symbolically in the parties hosted by Khannas.
The huge watch erected specially for this party showed 11:58…..11:59….12:00
‘Welcome New Year 2001’. Happy New year’ slogan like wishes erupted volcanically and the music changed its gear with dancing people and elders watching them.
As if they neared the cliff top for an aerial view, people calmed down to listen JP who went near the mike.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen! On this New Year Eve, I announce that my son Akshay is engaged to Shifali, Uday’s daughter. And the marriage is in mid March this year’. Everyone cheered as if they are Akshays and Shifalis. Uday bumped into JP and gave a hug. Reenu exchanged pleasantries with Anita, JP’s wife and Akshay’s mother.
The flood of congratulations choked the would-be couple. The element of happiness glowing in the eyes of JP & Anita and Uday & Reenu was missing in Akshay and Shifali. They were surprised at this sudden decision of their parents. Being bought up in ideal conditions, they never thought of questioning. They kept quiet and maintained the chorum of decency, which is predominating, in typical Indian families.
The party concluded with guests leaving in their Opel, Astras, Lancers and Icons, which started peeling off the road in front of the Villa. The Chopras were the last to leave. Akshay could see the disturbance caused by their parent’s decision in the eyes of Shifali when she said bye.
Though they know each other since childhood, never a thought of marriage occurred to them at least in his mind. They were good friends and friends. These thoughts filled Akshay’s mind to drag him to deep sleep before he was woken up by the jarring sound of phone call.
‘Hello! Akshay here’ he said.
‘Hello Akshay. This is Sanjay came the voice from the other side.
‘Hi Sanjay! How are you. What happened? Is everything okay? Akshay asked.
‘Dad got a heart-attack yesterday night. Right now he is doing well in our village hospital. I was tense and thought of calling you. So how are you?’ Sanjay explained.
‘It has been quite some time since I have seen you all. I am starting in an hour. Will talk to you when I am there. I want to see your parents. Ok. Don’t be tense. I am coming’ Akshay said.
‘Akshay! Why do you want to strain yourself? I am tackling the situation here. I know how busy is your life there. I called you as I was feeling to talk to you’ Sanjay replied.
‘Listen! Don’t say anything more now. I am coming there. Keep the phone off. I think the bill might have crossed 100 already. Ok. Bye’ Akshay commanded.
Sanjay kept the phone after saying, ‘Ok. Then I will be waiting for you.’
Strange are the ways the life unfolds. Akshay thought while driving his Lancer on NH 2 and heading towards Dhyanpur, a small village hamlet around 4 hours from Amritsar. The driver accompanying him was busy asleep, as Akshay loves driving long distances. It was Anita, Akshay’s mother who wished to take the driver along with him, as they have to travel for around 12 hours.
The car reached Ambala Cantt. Akshay took the rear seat and the driver in his defined one. Sanjay! Akshay just whispered. Friendship is the most the beautiful relationship known to the humanity. We never know how we develop a strong bond with someone. Once, Akshay went to Himanshu’s house to pick him up for a movie. Himanshu was taking his bath and Akshay sat in the living room. To perform the act of waiting, he bent forward to pick up the weekly found open on the table there. One thing attracted him. Himanshu has kept the pen pals page open and circled an address in it, which belongs to a girl. Himanshu is a lively guy and interested in making friends. He always writes to people and thereby knows a lot. Why not I write one? Akshay thought. Then he found one of the addresses interesting.
Name: Sanjay Singh
Education: Engineering Graduate
Hobbies: Reading, farming and making friends to share memoirs of life.
Address: Sanjay Singh s/o Vikram Singh, Dhyanpur, Batala Post, Gurdaspur District, Punjab.
Just then Himanshu came and said, ‘What? Oh no. Another competition for me. What? Are you planning to make friends with the girls I am trying?’
Akshay replied, ‘Hello. I am not taking away your girls’ address. I have noted down a chap’s address. No way, am I going to compete with you in making friends particularly the girls.
Himanshu said, ‘Hey Akshay. You are the biggest puzzle I have ever seen. You speak to few people and keep always some distance. And with girls, you increase the distance. And lots of girls just want to be your friends. Had I been in your place, I would have got over a dozen girl friends. Come on. Wake up
‘Listen, Don’t educate me in an area where I respect the most. For you, going around with girls is a hype you enjoy. But not for me. Let’s stop here. We are getting late for the movie. Hurry up’ Akshay forced Himanshu to join him. And within next six months, Sanjay has become a good friend of Akshay. Sanjay has completed his engineering in Production. At the time when he was set on to explore the world, his dad suffered from heart attack. Then he has taken the toughest decision in his life. To be with his parents, he put a full stop to his job ventures in the cities and took to farming the ancestral fields, which his father is very fond of. He has a sister who is pursuing engineering at Regional Engineering College, Jalandhar. They are good family with deeper affection.
Akshay was pulled out of his thought world by the sudden break applied by the driver upon seeing the big crater on the road. He looked around and found the lush green fields and beautiful sunflowers. Punjab is the land of fertility. And it comes under plains of India. The land is so even that on either side of the road, one can see leveled fields till the eyesight can reach.
Appreciating the natural way of living by Punjab people, Akshay reached Sanjay’s house. The village whispered in surprise over the arrival of Lancer. This is an usual phenomenon in any Indian village where people stare at the vehicles, which they come to see occasionally. The villagers are noble souls and believe in hard work. They believe in mother Earth. They reap fruits of their hardship. They eat what the nature gives. They lead a simple life and hence enjoy it till the last minute. City dwellers believe in I. I want this. I will make this. I will do this for my family. Staggered importance of self. Whereas the village folks believe in teamwork. They say we. They believe in we, the villagers of this village. They help each other irrespective of caste, creed and sex. Akshay was filled with these kinds of thoughts before entering Sanjay’s house.
A young, beautiful and homely woman came out of the house and stared at Akshay as she has never seen him before. The heart seems to be out of way and stopped for a while for Akshay looking at her. The sight lost its scheduled path and its functionality of blinking. And there on the other side, it is the same story. The woman was feeling strange on the way she is staring at the stranger standing in front of her house.
Akshay was the first to come out of this phobic experience and introduced himself and inquired about Sanjay. She said, ‘Please come. I am Simran, Sanjay’s sister. He has gone out and will be back in 10 minutes.’
Simran’ what a lovely name. Akshay could not stop praising the power of the name in a low voice.
‘What! Did you said something?’ She questioned.
‘No. Nothing. Can I have some water’ Akshay covered up.
‘Oh sure. Just be seated. I will be back’ Simran said before going to the kitchen. The house depicts the way one leads life. It’s a pretty good one. There are five rooms in all, three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. There is a small garden or roses, jasmines and lilies. The rooms are located in a rectangular block with an opening in the center. The front room leads to inside set of rooms and kitchen. The central place has got an opening and thereby there is free flow of fresh air. The entire atmosphere looks serene and sacred.
Simran brought lassi, which was as cold as her grace. As sweet as her voice. As soon as Akshay finished, Sanjay came. He gave a hug and greeted his friend. Akshay asked about Sanjay’s father and his health. He said, ‘Improving fast. He will be discharged tomorrow. Mum is also there. Will take you after some time’.
Akshay got refreshed after having a good bath. Everything appears to be pretty good in that small village. No sounds of vehicles. No pollution. Fresh breeze with the fragrance of flowers is doing the magic on human minds. They enrich the thoughts. After initial chitchat they started for the hospital.
Vikram Singh, Sanjay’s father was happy to see Akshay. And Sanjay’s mother started crying explaining her husband’s plight. Akshay consoled her with motivational words. And they were happy to see Akshay. He said, Tomorrow as Uncle is returning home, I want to spend a day with you all.’ Sanjay was delighted to hear that.
Sanjay and Akshay returned in the night. Simran was waiting for them as she has prepared food on her own. Akshay was awe-struck with the good taste of food for he has never had such a homely food. Simran was watching him praising her. An unknown feeling overtook her and she intends to listen more and more. She wants Akshay to tell more and more.
Sanjay arranged the bed in the front yard as Akshay loves to sleep on the cot outside watching stars. Simran told teasingly, ‘Sanjay, don’t sleep outside. The climate is cold. Else your city friend will catch cold by morning. I cannot get this kind of atmosphere at my house. Let me try if I can catch cost in a day or two. It has been long time since I had cold.’ Akshay replied to her teaser. And there was laughter.
‘Ok. We will sleep inside after some time. Let me talk to Akshay.’ Sanjay said.
They were on their cots outside in the front yard. Akshay was looking at stars. And Sanjay was telling about the village, family and life. Akshay is hearing nothing. The voice of Simran was humming in his ears. His eyes are searching the sky. Suddenly, he regained and said to himself, ‘What am I thinking? My marriage has been fixed. How can I think about other woman.’ The consciousness regained was lost at the sight of Simran standing at the front door and calling Sanjay. ‘It’s getting late. What you guys don’t want to sleep or what?’ ‘You see, Akshay, I have not seen my grandmother. But look at her, she commands like a granny’ he said. ‘Sanjay, how many times I have told you not to call granny.’ She said forcing angry ness on her face, which was not getting natural. ‘Ok. Don’t get angry. We are coming’ Sanjay said and asked Akshay to move in.
Akshay was drifted away with the emotional closeness between brother and sister. And he does not remember where his thoughts were going and how long before he could realize that he is asleep.
Gurbani from the old gramophone was being played when Akshay got up in the morning. Sanjay has already left for the fields. Simran was busy in the kitchen. Akshay finished the routine of batch and started reading newspaper.
‘Good morning! Had good sleep. Have some coffee now’ Simran said smilingly. The smile was like a rainbow after a drizzle and Akshay was getting fascinated with her every minute act. He himself was astonished at his behavior and thoughts. Whenever Akshay looks at her, Simran felt something unusual. Mere stare by Akshay was making her restless. She said, ‘Sanjay has gone to fields. From there he will go to hospital and bring back Dad. He has asked you to take rest.’ She could not withstand another instance of Akshay’s stare and left the room.
Within in an hour, Sanjay returned with his parents. Vikram Singh was happy to be back in the house. One of the best medicines in the world is sharing sweet memoirs with the near and dear ones. It works out miracles. Sanjay’s mother joined Simran in the kitchen to prepare special dishes for Akshay. He loves the Punjabi food particularly Meesri Roti and Sarso Ki Sag.
Akshay presented them the clothes he bought with him. They refused to accept them. However, he convinced them he is also part of their family and has a right to give presents. Then they had sumptuous lunch with Akshay feeling the homely food. He just thought of his house where the chef prepares food. He can count occasions where his mother has prepared food. Everything appears to be show biz in his house. The more the number of servants, the better is your status. This is the line of thought the elite has. But he longs for strong family feelings. He wants to share a moment of life with family. This could not be achieved in his 25 years of life. And here, everything is natural. People are content with what they get. They enjoy life as life.
They were having a chat after the lunch. Akshay, asked Sanjay to come to Delhi and look for a job as he has completed his Engineering Degree. Sanjay’s mother echoed it. Vikram Singh too gave his consent and said, ‘Listen son, you should not waster your life here. I know you are here just to keep me happy. In the same way, I want you to be happy. Akshay is right. Now that I am keeping well, you can try a job in the city. Once, you are settled there, we too come and stay with you.’ Everyone was delighted to hear that. Sanjay said, ‘Ok Dad, as you wish’.
‘So when are you going to come?’ Akshay asked him. ‘Do bring your sister also. I want to take you both around Delhi’. Simran was started at this. Sanjay started teasing his saying that they are planning to get her married. Simran turned angry and said, ‘Yes. Get me married as fast as possible. I am a burden in this house’ with pitiful face and eyes pumping out tears. Sanjay said, ‘hey Listen Simran. One day you have to get married. Do you know how much I miss you. The mere thought of your marriage makes me restless. Our home will be loosing its liveliness. But it’s the way of life. We have to take it.’ The atmosphere turned heavier with emotions. Akshay interfered saving ‘Hello, the ideal brother and sister. Let time be the decider. Let Uncle take rest now. Shall we go around and see your village.’ ‘Yes’ they said at the same time.
They went around the village for an hour and returned back. Akshay said he has to leave now. They requested him to stay for one more day. But he said he has to go. With lots of happiness revisited, Akshay started for Delhi. He reached there in the early hours. Just went into the bed to catch a couple of hour’s sleep.
He got up and readied himself for the office. When he was about to leave, Shifali called up and said she wants to talk to him in the evening. They decided to meet at Pizza Corner, Connaught Place at 6:30 in the evening.
Akshay reached Pizza Corner at 6:40 p.m. But Shifali has not turned up. He has to wait for another 15 minutes. She said sorry for making him to wait. They took the corner table, which they like the most.
It appears some unknown boundaries have been created between them ever since their marriage announcement by their parents. Shifali was struggling to start the conversation. Else she was very talkative. Then Akshay asked, ‘What happened? Is everything all right?’
‘Nothing. Got late as we were expecting new machinery today,’ Shifali said forcing a smile on her face.
They ordered for a pizza and coke for Shifali and coffee for Akshay. Silence ruled the evening of the-would be couple as both were busy with their own thoughts. Shifali thought that now that it has been decided, she has to explore Akshay and get accustomed. After all marriage is not mere relationship. It is the communion of two souls. But somewhere deep in the heart, she is not getting convinced with the thought of Akshay as her husband. She thought to divert her attention from this and started saying,’ There is some problem in our Company.’
‘What is it? How can I help you’ he asked. Shifali likes this quality of Akshay who is always ready to help others.
‘You see our inventories are getting piled up. Lot of money is getting blocked in that way. Now there is shortage of copper in the market. Total mismanagement by our Production Manger. I am worried at the grim situation in the factory’ Shifali said.
‘Why don’t you execute proper control. Think and act. There will be a way out.’ Akshay motivated her.
‘Yeah. I am working on that,’ She replied and asked,’ Shall we leave now?’
‘Oh, sure. Come on. Akshay said after paying the bill. He could read Shifali well. She is trying to escape the situation with her attention in the business. And irony is that there are few problems in it, which are occupying her mind. One way, it is good for her.
‘Akshay, Akshay!’ Anita came inside the room. ‘What happened Mom?’ he asked.
‘I have called up Reenu and Shifali. We have to go with them and purchase clothes for marriage. It is the custom that we have to purchase and give dress liked by the bride. Your marriage has been fixed for 16th March,’ Anita explained.
‘You know very well Mom. I hate shopping. Pl. you all go. I have some urgent work in the office.’ Akshay pleaded to escape.
‘No way. You have to come. It is your marriage and your would be wife is coming there. You and your would wife has to select the dress’ Anita ordered.
‘Anita’ JP came inside the room. ‘What’s going between the son and mother?’ he inquired. ‘See, you son does not want to accompany me in getting the marriage dress saying that he got urgent work in the office’ Anita complained to him.
‘He is right, Anita. He has an urgent meeting today. You, Reenu and Shifali go for shopping.’ JP said looking at Akshay who gave a smirk and expressed thanks to his Dad for saving him from the cumbersome shopping.
‘You both are like that. Even your Dad has not come for purchasing when he was getting married. How can I expect his son.’ Anita said. And JP cracked a joke, which lightened the atmosphere. They are laughed and went off in three ways, Anita for shopping, JP to a day’s on-site tour and Akshay to his office.
Akshay reached his office. But his mind was restless with thoughts coming different directions. He was breathless. March 16th is the date of his marriage. He has to do something before that. He thought about possible options in front of him. Either he has to accept that and marry Shifali. Or oppose it. But how? The best course of action is to accept Shifali as his wife and get married. Else it’s heartbreak for their parents. Somehow he was not convinced with this idea. Just then he thought of calling up Shifali and dialed the number. But remembered his mother’s words that they will be going for shopping and Shifali may be back in the afternoon.
Akshay wants to talk to someone. He just want to keep himself engaged with other actives else his thoughts will make him more depressed. He called Himanshu and asked him to come over there so that they can go out for some time. Himanshu has agreed for that and informed he will there in evening. Akshay assigned all the works to his subordinates and finished his meeting with the delegates who came from Japan for a business proposal. He is every professional does not neglect his work due to personal problems. He continued the work and so involved in it that he was astonished to see Himanshu in the evening. ‘What it’s already 6 in the evening? He asked. ‘No. it’s just 2 in the afternoon. Don’t work like that Akshay. Now, tell what do you want to talk with me?’ he inquired.
‘Not here. Shall we go to Lotus Temple. We shall discuss there.’ Akshay asked.
‘Sometimes, you too get great ideas of spending an evening’ Himanshu poked.
They reached the spectacular Lotus Temple and its night and the temple was lit with lights. After a visit to the main temple, they sat on the lawns in the front. Then Akshay explained everything to Himanshu about his marriage and his un-preparedness for the same.
‘Listen Akshay! It is your life. You have to take the decision. If you are not interested in the marriage, clearly tell that to your parents. Ask Shifali about this. If you both think the same way, I think it is difficult for you both to get married to just keep your parents happy. I don’t say that you should hurt your parents. At the same time, you have to take care of your life too. Think about this and take a decision. But one thing, whatever decision you take, I am on your side. Will fulfill the duty of a friend’ Himanshu said.
‘Thank you, Himanshu. I know, there are not thanks and sorry in friendship. But I am confused.’ Akshay said.
‘Relax. Do whatever you can from your side. God helps those you try’ Himanshu said philosophically.
And they left the temple. Akshay dropped Himanshu before reaching his house. When he was having his dinner, the phone rang. ‘Hello! Akshay here’ he said.
‘Hello Akshay/ Sanjay here. I am coming to Delhi tomorrow in search of job.’ The voice on the other side said.
‘That’s great. Come to our house here.’ Akshay replied in joy.
‘One more thing. Simran wants to see Delhi. Shall I bring her too’ Sanjay asked.
‘Sure. Why not? You both come down here.’ He said.
‘Ok. Akshay, we will be there by tomorrow morning’ Sanjay said before keeping the phone.
Akshay called up Shifali. She was surprised to receive his call at this hour. He said, ‘ You were saying that you got some problems in your factory. Listen, I got a friend who is a Graduate in Production Engineering. He is very hard working and sincere. Do you mind, giving him a chance. And am I sure, he will set right the situation in the factory.’
‘Ok. Send him to my office tomorrow. Let me see’ Shifali answered. She intends to talk to Akshay in the way she used to. But something has overtaken her since the marriage announcement and she could not speak properly to him.
‘Thanks Simran.’ Akshay said.
‘Relations are strange. One never knows how the relations take turns and change the course of life.
‘Good morning’ Sanjay and Simran wished Akshay. He introduced them to his mother and father. Akshay was delighted to see Simran in his house The mere sight of her takes him to a world, which he has never been.
Anita was impressed with the way Sanjay and Simran talk to elders. JP too was happy that his son makes friend with the right kind of people. People of respect and integrity even though they may not be rich.
Anita said, ‘Ok Get ready. I will arrange breakfast for you all.’ I will help you Aunty’ Simran went with Anita. Akshay was looking at them for a while.
‘Ok. Sanjay. I spoke to one of my friend. You have to go there and I hope you will get a job. In other case, I will keep you in our office’ Akshay explained.
‘Yes Boss’ Sanjay said saluting him.
They had their breakfast. Akshay and Sanjay were getting ready for the office. Anita said,’ You both will be going around. What about this girl” What she came here to sit at the home. Akshay why don’t you take her to office and show our factory?’ Both Akshay and Simran just wanted this. They want to spend some time with each other. And they all left the house.
Sanjay got down at Shifali’s office. Akshay and Simran went to his office. He asked Simran to look around the brochures of his company and he got into his business. He wants to finish that day’s work as early as possible and freak out.
‘Good morning. My name is Sanjay Singh, Akshay has sent me here’ he introduced himself to Shifali who turned her face upon hearing his voice.
Both were silent upon looking at each other. Shifali felt an unusual feeling, which she never experienced.
‘Yes. So, tell me something about you Sanjay’ she asked.
And the things moved such a fast pace that Shifali was impressed with Sanjay and he was appointed as the Production Manager. She took him to the factory and introduced him to the Production people.
Sanjay was a gem. He acts fast and started his job right away. Shifali was impressed with his interest. His analytical mind conquered Shifali. She thought of telling thanks to Akshay for this and called up his office. The phone was ringing and no one was lifting it. On the other end, Simran sitting in Akshay's cabin was hesitant whether to answer the call or not. Shifali called up after 10 minutes and this time Simran decided to attend the call. She said, ‘Hello!’
Shifali was astonished to find a woman’s voice at that time. Before she could say anything Simran asked, ‘May I know who is on the line?’
‘Shifali. Is Akshay there?’ she questioned.
‘Right now he is in a meeting. Any message?’ Simran answered with a question.
Shifali said, ‘It’s OK. I will call him later. By the way, who is this?’
‘Simran’ she answered and kept the phone.
Simran! Who is this Simran? What is she doing in Akshay’s office? A spurt of questions baffled Shifali.
Akshay returned from the meeting and was informed by Simran that Shifali called up. It was at 4 p.m. He thought of calling it for the day so that they can go around Delhi. Simran said it would be good if Sanjay can join them. He called up Shifali and asked her to join them with Sanjay.
Sanjay was reluctant to go around as it was his first day at job. However he has to accept as Shifali asked him. Her sweet voice is overwhelming him.
They all met at South Extension, which was central to their offices. They visited Kalkaji Mandir, Lotus Temple, Kutub Minar and finally came to Red Fort. They went around the majestic fort, which remained as the silent living persona of great Indian heritage. Simran wants to talk to Akshay and Shifali wants time with Sanjay. They sat in the Rani Mahal there.
Shifali said she will get some ice cream and asked Sanjay to accompany her. Akshay was delighted to hear that. He asked, ‘So, Simran how is Delhi?’
‘Good.’ She replied.
‘Just good. Delhi is the city of people with heart. How do you find them?’ he questioned trying to know her.
‘People are really good. But the city is highly polluted. However, this fort attracted me a lot. You see there, the throne of Baadshah. See the architecture of this dome. All these things indicate the proficiency of our ancestors.’ She stopped to take breath.
‘So, Delhi fascinates you. Any plans of coming to Delhi after your graduation?’ he interrupted her.
There, Shifali is finding out ways to start conversation with Sanjay. She asked, ‘What do you like to have Sanjay?’
‘My sister likes Vanila. And I too’ he replied.
Shifali was trying to understand Sanjay and his affection towards his sister. They bought ice cream and were walking back to the place. Shifali intended to say something but before she could, they reached the place and Akshay was bit uncomfortable on seeing them. He was waiting for the answer from Simran, which she avoided on seeing Sanjay and Shifali.
Then they all watched the light and music show organized by the Archaeological Society of India in the Rang Mahal.
It’s time to disperse now. Shifali said. Akshay said, ‘Simran you sit with Shifali. Let Sanjay be with me. We will go via Shifali’ s house’ For which none of them felt good.
The Lancer and the Opel Astra started off from the Red Fort. Sanjay was telling about his first day experience to Akshay, who was driving. He was looking at the side mirror and trying to get a glance of Simran who was in Shifali’ s car.
And in the other car, Simran asked Shifali about her brother. She said he is good and hardworking. The sight of Sanjay and the words about him are making Shifali drift away into a world of thoughts. Though she was driving and hearing to Simran, her thoughts were revolving around Sanjay.
Simran sat in the rear seat after they started form Shifali’ s house. Akshay adjusted the mirror to get a glance of her eyes, which sparkled at his action. Sanjay said, ‘Akshay, now that I got the job. I would like to search a house and shift there.’
‘What? Akshay said shockingly. ‘Who is asking you to do that. You can stay with me in my house.’
‘Listen, Akshay. I know you will tell that way. But it is not correct to trouble you like this. And you know very well about my principles.’ Sanjay explained calmly.
‘It’s okay. I know you very well. Do one thing. We have another house at Lajpat Nagar. It’s vacant now. And it is near to your office also. I will speak to Dad and get it readied for your stay. Now. Don’t say anything else.’ He ordered.
‘But one condition. I will pay rent for the same. Else, I will search for some other house’ Sanjay answered affirmatively.
‘Ok. As long as you are near to me. I don’t have any objections’ Akshay replied.
Then Simran said, ‘You guys forgot that there is someone who is also travelling along with you. Talking as if only you both are there.’
‘Oh sorry Simran’ Akshay apologized as if he committed a mistake. Sanjay was puzzled at his behavior.
They reached the house and Anita was waiting for them. They all had their dinner and at the table, Anita was surprised to hear that Sanjay wants to stay somewhere else. But she appreciated his line of thought. Not to become burden on anyone else. Then She said, 'Okay Listen one thing. Wherever you are you have to take one-week leave and take care of marriage arrangements. Don’t you know that Akshay is getting married on 16th March’
Hearts exploded with the truth. Akshay kept a sorry face for not telling them. Simran with disturbance and turbulence, Sanjay with an element of unfriendliness.
Sanjay controlled and asked, Aunty! Let us know who is the bride who is getting married to Akshay.’
‘Who else, it is Shifali.’ Anita answered joyfully. Dullness overtook the pretty three who came laughing to the dinning table. The food, which was delicious, became bitter and sour. When the heart feels hurt, the mind diverts all its resources to attend that. As such, the remaining parts loose their functionality for a while. That is the importance of heart vis-à-vis other parts of the body are concerned. Silence started pouncing upon the cheerful. And they gave in to it. They kept silent until they finished their dinner.
‘Sorry Sanjay. I was about to tell you that. But it was so sudden that I myself could take it.’ Akshay said as if he is giving an explanation.
‘He. I am not angry with you. But you should have told us. Anyhow, we are happy to hear that. What do you say Simran? He asked looking at Simran.
She was in a world of lost dreams. Just forced a smile and said she is happy to hear that. Akshay could read the stress on the word happy.
They forced themselves to go to sleep. But sleep seems to be harsh towards them that day. None of them could sleep well.
A week passed with Simran spending most of her time with Anita. Akshay and Sanjay being busy with their office work.
The house at Lajpat Nagar was ready to stay and it was decided that Sanjay will be moving there. Sanjay and Simran left for Lajpat Nagar. Akshay dropped them and went to his office. It was decided that Simran would be leaving in the evening as she got to attend her college.
The day of January 25th was passing very slowly for them. Shifali and Akshay too came to railway station. Simran said, ‘Thank you for everything Akshay’ with heavier eyes. He could not speak anything looking at them.
The train started off and it appeared to Akshay as if his life is going along with it. Akshay dropped Sanjay at the AIIMS circle, which he insisted. Sanjay loves to walk. Particularly when he is tense. He wants to walk for sometime.
Shifali left for her house in her car.
Shifali was driving her car. She was thinking of Sanjay and Akshay. It appeared to her as if they and she formed a triangle. One side, her love towards Sanjay. And on the other, her adherence to parent’s wish. Her heart was not accepting Akshay as her husband. Love not strengthening her to take a decision, she started telling herself that she has to go on with the things the way they are unfolded. And she is not sure whether Sanjay loves her or not. Who knows, Akshay is the man made for her.
Simran sat at the window seat. Looking at the moving tress, she was thinking of Akshay. The mere thought of Akshay vibrates the sweet notes of music in the heart. But the mind is telling the truth. How can she think about Akshay when he is getting married to Shifali. It appeared to hear as if they and she formed a triangle of love, marriage and the truth. She loves Akshay who is getting married to Shifali, which is the truth. Unable to sustain the pain of truth unfolded to the heart of love, She consoled herself saying who knows whether Akshay loves her or not. She has to get on with the life. For life is a river. It has to flow.
Akshay thought about Simran and Shifali while driving home. He was not getting accustomed to the truth that he has to marry to Shifali as dictated by their parents. The heart beat increases at the mere thought of Simran. It appears, he, Simran and Shifali form a triangle. He felt that he loves Simran but unable to express it. An unknown fear is stopping him. What will be the reaction form his parents. Whether Shifali accepts that or not. How does Uday and Reenu react. It appears he is trying to solve the biggest problem he ever came across in his life. It is the question of three lives. Any decision will alter three lives.
Sanjay was walking along M.G. Ring road. He thought of Shifali. The mind seems to forget its course of duty with the thought of Shifali. On one end is Shifali whom he loves, on the other end is Akshay who likes the most and to the third end stands he. A triangle of love, friendship and marriage. Love flowing between him and Shifali, Friendship vibrating between Akshay and him. And the truth of marriage between Akshay and Shifali. He cannot create problems with his love. And he is not sure whether Shifali loves him or not. So the best course is to allow the time to rule the situation.
LOVE IS THE STRANGE THING EVER TO HAPPEN TO AN INDIVIDUAL. IT MAKES OR CRACKS LIVES. THE DESTINY HAS THE UPPER HAND IN THE MATTERS OF LOVE. THE POWER OF LOVE LIES IN REVERSING THE DESTINY.
Days passed. There was a problem in Shifali’ s factory. The suppliers stopped supply of raw materials due to non-payment. Production stopped. The stores and earlier production managers connived and brought this situation. She was upset. Sanjay was trying to convince the suppliers and start the production. She was a silent spectator to the meeting of suppliers in which he took the center stage. It was accepted that they have to pay all the outstanding payment within 7 days. The payments sum up to 15 lakhs.
Business people turn around crores of rupees of business. But when it comes to hard cash, they will feel the shortage. Shifali was experiencing this kind of feeling. How can she arrange 15 lakhs in 7 days. She knows very well that as a company policy they can give 30 days credit period to their customers. She cannot get these 15 lakhs within such short time.
Sanjay came and consoled her saying they can arrange somehow. Shifali checked with her bank and said 10 lakhs will be made available in 3 days. What about remaining 5 lakhs?
‘Don’t worry. We shall try our best. There will be a way out. Let me start the production’ Sanjay said and left the cabin.
Shifali kept looking at the door from where Sanjay left.
What should she do now? She was thinking about the company. Her father is a heart patient and she decided not to tell anything to him. Shall I ask Akshay? No. I should not. Few questions and subtle answers confused her. As a respite from tension, Sanjay came and informed her that the production started and things are rolling out. He asked her for a couple of days leave as he got some urgent work at home.
‘What Sanjay. You too want to leave me alone in these difficult times. By the way, is there any problem at you house?’ She inquired.
‘Everyone is fine over there. I have some urgent work, which I cannot postpone. Today is 12th Feb. I will be back on 15th’ he replied.
‘All right. Come soon’ she said though she knew that she cannot spend a day without seeing him.
Shifali was driving back home with thoughts of Sanjay, her family and the company. She is an intelligent girl and knows well on how to deal with stress. She tried to come out of those thoughts. She intended to do something, which diverts her mind. But Sanjay was not moving out of her thoughts. Suddenly, she remembered that Valentine Day is near. Why not she send a card to him. By now, he might have started for Dhyanpur.
She took a U-turn near Ashram and stopped at Gangarams. She has a glance at the various cards displayed there. One of them attracted her and she went there to pick it up. Just then, another hand reached for the same card.
‘You and here’ Shifali screamed looking at Akshay.
He too gave a surprised look at Shifali. He said, ‘Yes. Thought of buying a card. Well, you take that card. I will select another one’
‘No. You take this one. I will go for another’ she said.
And so on for a couple of minutes this you you went on.
Meanwhile, the sales guy intervened and said, ‘Madam and Sir. We do have a bundle of same cards. Why don’t you both take one each instead of this you you’
Until then Shifali and Akshay has not thought of this. Strange, some times people think without the role of mind.
How come Shifali has bought a card on the eve of Valentine’s Day? Akshay was thinking. Was that card for him? Or she loves someone else. Never he has received any card from her except birthday wishes. Anyhow, he has decided to embolden himself and express his love. And that is the reason for him to buy a card and propose to Simran. Before taking any step he wants to know whether Simran loves him or not.
How come Akshay has bought a valentine card? Her own self hurled questions at Shifali.
Whether the card was for her? Or he loves some one else. She thought of Sanjay for whom she bought the card. She decided to know whether Sanjay too loves her or not.
She posted the card on her way to office next day.
Where shall I send this card? Akshay was in a fix. Whether to send the card to Simran’s college or her house Dhyanpur. He sent the card to Dhyanpur by special courier thinking that she may be there as his heart was saying that.
Sanjay reached his house and his parents were happy to see him. He called up Simran and asked her to come there, as he wants to take an important decision. He spoke to Vikram Singh and said, ‘ Dad, today my company is in problems. We have to do something’
He explained everything about the company and the problems. Vikram Singh asked him on what should they do now or rather what can they do.
For which he replied, ‘Dad. You have taught us that we should be faithful and helpful to the people who helped us. I spoke to our village head. We will sell off our fields. In fact he was asking us for the last couple of years about it’
‘What?’ Vikram Singh blood pressure shot up. Sanjay’s mother intervened and said, ‘Listen. What is the use of living if we are not helping our people. We can get back the fields later once the problems are solved.’
Vikram Singh cooled down and thought for a while. Then he came near Sanjay gave a pat and said, ‘ I am proud of you my son for your self-less effort. It’s ok as long as you all are happy. I want to see you happy. So, how much is he going to pay?
‘Five lakhs. And the village head has promised that he will give the cash within two days. I called up Simran too. She will be coming tomorrow. We should know her opinion also before taking a final decision.’ Sanjay informed.
Simran reached Dhyanpur next day. She looked pale and weak. Sanjay told everything to her and she accepted that line of thought.
Thoughts of Akshay were troubling Simran ever since she left Delhi. Tomorrow is the day meant for love. The stream of thoughts stopped for a while at the instance of one thought saying that she should call up Akshay and tell him about her love. Immediately another thought came with a force to abandon the earlier one. To get relieved from this whirlpool of thoughts, Simran joined her mother in the kitchen.
Sanjay was returning home and heard someone calling him. It was the courier guy. Generally, they won’t receive any courier in that village. Except the most reliable Indian Govt. postal service.
The courier guy gave two envelopes addressed to him and Simran. From the touch, he could feel that they are some greeting cards. What is the occasion to send cards? And who has sent them.
He reached his house and gave Simran her letter. He went inside his room and eagerly opened it. He was astonished to read:
When I think of you
I feel like flying
In the sky of love
When I think of you
I feel like swimming
In the ocean of love
When I think of you
I feel like dancing
On the floor of love
Soul & Heart merging
When I think of you
I feel like writing
A book of love
Eternal quest fulfilling
Neither I know flying
Either I know dancing
For I know only one thing
Just to love you
Here and hereafter!
Thinking of you on Valentines’ Day!
I love you Sanjay.
Sanjay felt as if he has been forced out of earth reaching the sky to fly.
In the next room, Simran was eager to know who is it who has sent a card to her. She could not believe it and felt like the ground underneath trembling upon reading the card, which says:
When I think of you
I feel like flying
In the sky of love
When I think of you
I feel like swimming
In the ocean of love
When I think of you
I feel like dancing
On the floor of love
Soul & Heart merging
When I think of you
I feel like writing
A book of love
Eternal quest fulfilling
Neither I know flying
Either I know dancing
For I know only one thing
Just to love you
Here and hereafter!
Thinking of you on Valentines’ Day!
I love you Simran.
When happiness invades heart, the face glows like sun. Both Simran and Sanjay were happy which puzzled their parents when they met for dinner. Sanjay came to Simran’s room to take the remote of television, which she has hidden as they fight for it for switching to their choice of channels to watch TV. Something attracted him. A card underneath the pillow. He picked it up and was astonished to find the same card he has received from Shifali. Only change being that of Akshay’s name.
Things are becoming clear to Sanjay. But how can he save them?
Sanjay returned to Delhi with his parents. He called up Shifali and informed her not to worry about money. She was speechless to hear that.
He reached his office and was looking delighted with the proposal from Shifali. He said, ‘Listen, I have got 5 lakhs. So we can pay off to our suppliers and start the business with extra care.’
‘I got 10 lakhs from the bank and so we can pay to our suppliers to keep our word’ Shifali answered though he has not questioned. He was astonished to hear ‘our word’ in her sentence.
They got into their business, which kept them, busy for another two days.
‘Hello Uncle. This is Sanjay. Could u pl. spare some time with me. I want to talk to you.’ Sanjay requested JP over phone for which he has agreed and asked him to come at 4 p.m. in the evening.
‘So, tell me. Any problems?’ JP’ voice thundered.
Sanjay was struggling to start conversation of life. He was bewildered on where to start and what to tell. Somehow, he took a long breath and explained at length their love.
JP screamed like a ferocious lion upon hearing that. He said, ‘I don’t believe in these love things. They are utter time-waste activities. In your best interests, I suggest you all to forget that and get along with the decision we have taken. If not, take this as a warning. I am not going to tolerate anything, which brings disrepute to my family. Now, you can go’ he ordered.
‘Finished. Now their love is being crucified with alter ego of parents’ Sanjay thought. And there is no use in explaining more to him. It is known now that he is not going to accept that. So he left for his house.
‘What should we do now?’ Akshay asked Sanjay who explained his encounter with his Dad.
‘Listen Akshay. I think it is better to forget our love and go on with the things the way they are unfolded’ Sanjay spoke in a low voice as if a King after loosing a battle.
‘We still have twenty days for the marriage. Can we try once again? Let me speak to Dad today.’ Akshay said optimistically.
‘No Akshay. He was very upset on hearing this. I think you should not speak to him anymore on this.’ Sanjay stopped him.
Akshay knows his Dad very well. He commands respect and no one ever dares to oppose him. Else they have to face his wrath which is the last thing a person can expect from him.
Saddened by the turn of the events, the friends started walking around Connaught Place dejectedly. How will Shifali react to this Sanjay was thinking. And Akshay was thinking of Simran. They decided that they would explain these developments and forget their love. It takes few seconds to revolt against parents. But no revolution in the world was ever peaceful and it always leaves behind a scare or two to remember forth.
And the health conditions of their parents are stopping them to take a violent step. Akshay knows that if he takes any violent step it will affect his Dad whom he loves very much.
They departed for their house after deciding that Sanjay will explain to Simran and Akshay to Shifali about the JP’s reaction to their love.
When Akshay reached his house, JP was in his reading room. Over years, JP has developed a habit of spending two hours in reading every day, which he does ritually.
Before going to bed, JP came to Akshay and asked about how the things are going on. Both of them knew that there is topic, which they want to discuss. Yet finding ways to start it.
‘Oh. They are fine and I am working on our expansion plan. I think within 6 months, we can increase our production by 40%.’ The businessman in Akshay answered.
‘That’s great. Keep it up. And my advice at this juncture is, whatever we decide it is in your best interests. So get along with it. You will reap rich fruits later’ JP made it clear indirectly to Akshay on how hurt he is.
‘Yes Dad. I can understand that. But some times, you may have to listen. Anyhow now that you are decided that I should marry Shifali so it will be. But I am not happy with that. I can elope with my love. Never am I going to do such an idiotic thing. I love Simran. You wished the other way.’ Akshay attacked directly coming to the point. He himself was astonished to the way he expressed in few sentences about the issue, which was troubling him for past few fortnights.
JP could read the feelings of his son. However, the decorum stopped him. He said, ‘I am sorry that I could not agree with you on this point. But I firmly believe that it is infatuation not love as happens to anyone of your age. Marriage is an important event in one’s life. The success of a man is directly related to his marriage. So, we thought of the best possible way and decided your marriage. It is getting late now. Go and sleep’
‘Ok Dad. But one thing, I sincerely love Simran and it is love nothing else. That’s all I want to tell you. Good night dad’ Akshay replied.
Finished. Unknown boundaries are drawn around him. Akshay thought for himself.
Why should it happen to him at this point of time, JP was thinking on his way to his bedroom. He spoke to Anita on the discussions he had with Sanjay and Akshay. She asked, ‘We have only one son. And you too love him very dearly. Then why is it that you are not accepting his love.’ Anita wants to see her son happy. Somehow, JP is not convinced. And she knows very well, JP is not going to give in until and unless he is convinced. Then JP took upon his veto power like and commanded, ‘Listen. Akshay is going to marry Shifali. That’s all. No more arguments.’ She kept quite to stop the argument there instead of prolonging as she knew there won’t be any outcome out of it.
In the other room, Akshay was searching for sleep in the sands of broken heart. He was torn apart with the way things went on. He has to live with it if he cares for his family. He just switched on some music just to keep him busy and away from the thoughts.
‘It’s been the good will of JP that he is trying to save our family reputation. Forget your love and get ready for the marriage’ Uday concluded after a heated argument with Shifali. JP explained to him in the evening about his meeting with Sanjay and the love of their children.
Shifali could not believe that her Dad could speak in such a high tone. When heart hears unbearable things, it cries. Tears were flowing and she could not speak it up.
Reenu intervened and consoled her saying that they are doing it in her interest and she should not think otherwise. Uday too gave a pat and said, ‘Listen child. You are my good daughter and I want you to be happy. And the decision we have taken will keep you happy. Akshay is a very good person and he is made for you. Forget everything and go to sleep now.’
This is the art which Indian parents have mastered over centuries. They force their decisions on their children thinking that they are the best judges for future of their children. Though, it is necessary but not at, all times. At certain period of time, they have to leave their children to take decisions on their own. This is not case with most of the families in India.
Shifali could not understand whether she is sleeping or not. Though she closed her eyes the mind seems to be working. Forcing the mind to sleep is something like making the horse to drink water.
Sanjay called up Simran to stop her from further dreaming. She was dumbstruck to hear that and could not speak. He asked her to concentrate on her studies forgetting everything happened in the recent past. Though he himself is hurt, the brother in Sanjay is trying to help his sister. An act of protectiveness inherited from parents.
She said she is fine and she can take care on her own. He asked her to come to Delhi and spend some time with their parents. He concluded that talk with an advice saying that we have to face life for it is not so easy. She took that advice and in turn asked him to take care.
Six more days for the marriage and the activities picked up momentum at JP’s house flooded with relatives and friends. Typically in a North Indian marriage, there are lots of pre-marriage functions to be held. And these small functions are like run-up for the main event.
JP called up Sanjay and said, ‘Look. If u think you are a good friend of Akshay then come here and look after the marriage arrangements’. Whatever JP does, he does it in an elegant fashion. Even when it comes to question of relations. Sanjay could not refuse him and agreed that he will take leave for 5 days and look after the marriage arrangements. JP was astonished at his good behavior and thoughts.
‘SHIFALI WEDS AKSHAY’ banner was glowing magnanimously with lights at the Function Plaza, Gurgaon Road. It’s MARCH 16TH.
And in the marriages in northern part of India, reception is held first and the actual marriage will be conducted in the night extending till morning. The bridegroom comes on a horse to the venue. Crackers are burnt as mark of celebration time. And the yet to be married & already married converge to share the most memorable event in one’s life called MARRIAGE. Then the bride and the bridegroom will be seated in two specially designed chairs. Relatives and friends come to the dais and congratulate the yet to be wed who are going to tie the nuptial knot in a few hours from then.
Simran was assisting Shifali in getting dressed in bridal custumes. Both of them are forcing smiles on their face. Yet they know it is artificial. Suddenly, there was an enormous sound erupted from a cracker marking the arrival of bridegroom.
Sanjay was accompanying Akshay who was riding the horse to the marriage venue. The music, the crackers and the time for celebrations reached its zenith by the time the horse reached the entrance. The bridegroom will be welcomed by bride’s father and is taken to the dais. Uday came and guided Akshay to the dais and when Akshay was about to climb the dais a voice puzzled everyone over there.
‘Wait Akshay. ’ JP shouted.
Whispers and whispers in the audience which get delighted with such unexpected turn of events. JP came to the dais and said, ‘Ladies and Gentleman. I want to tell you something. My son and Shifali are marked examples of ideal children. On January 1, I have declared in front of you about their engagement. They are so obedient that they never questioned us and on the decision we have taken. And indeed, today they are sacrificing their love and getting married just to keep Uday and me happy. That’s really great. But we as parents, always want our children happy. Yes, at times we have to listen to them. We have to understand their feelings after ascertaining whether they are ever lasting or not. Shifali and Akshay have proved yet again that our children respond on the way we care them. And they have won their love with confidence. Uday, Vikram and I are glad to inform you that there are two marriages at this same venue. Just look over there’ he pointed towards sky.
JP has planned everything in advance and there was big sound of crackers going up in the sky and forming
‘SHIFALI WEDS SANJAY’ AND ‘SIMRAN WEDS AKSHAY’
Everyone cheered and clapped upon hearing the love tale of Shifali & Sanjay and Simran & Akshay.
It’s the triumph of love. Yet again love wins.
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