All For One, One For All
All For One, One For All
It was graduation day! Everyone was excited about being able to finally pursue their dream in the big bad world. The entire class of Business Management students couldn’t have been happier. Their efforts were finally acknowledged and recognized after burning the midnight oil relentlessly.
Shreya entered the final year classroom and sat on ‘her’ bench. She could literally call it that. She had engraved her name on it. It was a given that the bench was specially reserved for only the three of them, “The 3 Musketeers”, as they were lovingly called. She slowly ran her fingers on the names etched ‘Shreya’, ‘Gautam’ and ‘Damini’.
She was a pretty girl with long shoulder-length hair and a mystifying personality. She hardly spoke and preferred the company of a few, Damini and Gautam were her world. She didn’t feel the need for anyone else. Her parents were public figures to look up to. Her dad Mr Yash Raina was a renowned advocate in the Delhi High Court and her mother Mrs Suhasini Raina was a philanthropist who ran a charitable home for the aged. Her house was no less than a palace, full of eloquence and grandeur. Her parents were so busy and exhausted throughout the day that they had little time to talk to each other. Breakfast was the only time the family came together at the table. The conversation vexed towards polite pleasantries as each inquired about the whereabouts of the other and updated themselves. Her parents were proud of Shreya's academic achievements and had high hopes for her future. They never imposed their will on her and let her choose the career of her interest.
Lost in her thoughts she sauntered towards the window and looked down at the hustle-bustle of the campus, she knew nothing would be the same now. They would now have to be responsible and act like grownups, gone were the carefree college days. She felt a hand covering her eyes and someone engulfing her in a bear hug from behind. She didn’t need to guess who it was.
Damini was her usual self, boisterously screaming in her ears.
“Shreyu, can you believe it? We are graduating today. Gosh sounds crazy na! Next month this time we’ll be in different cities. I wish we three would have been selected by the same company,” she said.
Damini was a jovial and bubbly girl who radiated warmth and happiness. Perhaps the noisiest of the trio, she was the one full of life. Her personality was infectious and automatically brought a smile to the people around her. She was from a humble background and lived a normal Indian middle-class life. Her dad Sandeep Sanyal worked as an engineer in a reputed software company and her mother Kiran was a teacher who taught at a private school. Her younger brother Yash had just appeared for his 12th boards and would soon be joining an engineering college. Theirs was a family with a lot of fun and smiles. Their home though small was always full of laughter and happiness. They were content and happy and the same reflected in their personas and nature.
“Damu, don’t worry. We’ve literally grown up together and have been close since childhood, a mere city wouldn't affect our bond. And you never know like the saying goes distance makes the heart fonder, hopefully, you both will treasure me more and realize my true value now”, she jokingly winked.
“I knew I’d find you two here. Too many fond memories in this class”, Gautam stood leaning at the door. As he covered the distance, both the girls were engulfed in their own thoughts. Shreya had a crush on him but had never confessed her true feelings to him. Damini was well aware of it but chose to remain silent. It was the only secret between them in all these years.
Gautam was their friend from school who chose the same field as theirs and was like a bodyguard to the girls all through college. He could definitely be called that with his dashing personality and towering height of 6’1, he was admired and respected by everyone. His dimpled smile was a killer. All the girls, be it in their school or college were crazy about Gautam and asked Shreya and Damini for introductions. They couldn’t refuse and with a heavy heart saw him flirt with other girls. At those times when Shreya sulked alone, Damini stood rock solid with her as she knew her unsaid emotions. They gave each other company and in their minds prayed that the date sucks for Gautam.
Unwittingly that is what always happened, he used to return back as soon as he left. His date mostly didn’t turn up or called to apologize that she couldn’t make it. He sensed it might be due to his proximity with Shreya and Damini which might be the reason for their hesitance or change of mind. He couldn’t care less. The girls were like a sounding board for him to whom he could always return.
Gautam belonged to an illustrious family of an industrialist. His parents were kind and helpful people who never let their wealth affect their behaviour towards others. Gautam was taught the same. He never distinguished between rich and poor and treated everyone at par. When Gautam was 14, his parents passed away in an unfortunate plane crash. He was devastated at the double loss, if not for the support and encouragement of the girls he would have plummeted away in grief. His grew up in the care of his Uncle Rahul Diwan, his father’s younger brother who looked after his upbringing and also managed the company on his behalf till he became of legal age.
The trio revelled in playing pranks on each other and more often than not two of them ganged against the third and pulled his or her leg. It was like second nature to them. They competed with each other for motivation and also adhered to their advice and solutions. They were always there for each other on every occasion from the most trying times to the most blissful moments.
In the campus selection. Shreya was selected by a Mumbai based company and Gautam and Damini were selected by different companies based in Bangalore. As the time to separate came nearer the trio became restless. They promised to be in touch always and made it a pact to meet bi-monthly.
Shreya left for Mumbai and a couple of days later Gautam and Damini also departed for Bangalore.
The first few weeks were busy for them in settling and exploring the new city. Gautam and Damini lived 15 minutes away from each other in Bangalore but had to travel separately for work as their offices were in opposite directions. Shreya couldn’t get enough of Mumbai, she was mesmerized and fascinated by the city of dreams. She didn’t live far from her workplace and travelled by an auto-rickshaw or bus. They regularly video chatted and updated each other about the happenings in life. Gautam and Damini regularly used to hang out post-work and on weekends. They made it a point to stick around together. Since the trio left their Delhi neighbourhood, it had suddenly become quiet and uneventful.
Work and the new city kept them all busy. The frequency of video calls started decreasing and Gautam and Damini also couldn’t meet as often. A casual text or pic kept their WhatsApp group buzzing. It was almost two months and the time for their meet. With a lot of difficulties and shuffling they agreed on a date. It was decided Shreya was to fly down to Bangalore as Damini had an urgent presentation to submit and couldn’t travel. Gautam was at the airport to pick Shreya and both hugged and jumped like there was no tomorrow. He drove her to Damini’s apartment where she was to stay the night but not before painting the town red as was their plan. Damini was still at work so Shreya and Gautam got talking and exchanging their life whereabouts of the past two months. Both realized the other had suddenly become more responsible and mature. It was like they were seeing each other for the first time. Gautam left her to freshen up and fixed a time for picking the girls. They were going to a fancy open terrace restaurant and then clubbing post that. Shreya quickly unpacked and selected a red short dress. She hadn’t packed any accessories as she knew she would rummage Damini’s closet after months. They inadvertently always loved what the other chose. She opened the chest of drawer on the dressing table and tried on her makeup.
“Her sense of style has improved way better in Bangalore”, she thought out loud.
“Oh really says who?”, Damini smacked her purse on Shreya’s back and gave her a tight hug.
"Feels so good to see you in person Damu”, Shreya hugged her back.
“Ditto Baby. I missed you and your silly jokes. People in Bangalore have no sense of humour yaar”, countered Damini. “So you back to ransacking my closets and accessories”, she sauntered playfully.
“Of course. Who else do you buy all this stuff for? I know for sure that you hardly use any of the stuff you own. Why don’t you yourself hand it over to me, you know it's becoming difficult waiting every two months to lay my hands on them now”, Shreya winked.
“Yeah right. Wishful thinking”, Damini replied.
Damini chose a full-length jumpsuit which accentuated her voluptuous figure. She rarely partied, unless it was with Shreya and Gautam. She needed the break today after a hectic day at work. And their reunion definitely called for one.
Shreya put up a pair of long danglers and held across her face, “You really think you were gonna wear them? Like seriously. Who are you trying to fool?” She jostled through all the different accessories, purses, watches, stilettos and found matching earrings and killer heels to match her dress. She couldn’t believe the unnecessary stuff her friend collected which she has no intention of ever wearing.
Gautam was bang on time as always. He gave a whistle seeing Shreya and Damini. “Oh God! I guess I’ll be on bodyguard duty today as well. You both are looking rocking. I'm sure every guy around is going to be jealous of me”.
"Why do you think we are taking you along, big guy?”, Damini said playfully hooking an arm with his.
He extended his other arm to Shreya, “Ladies, let's go!”
They enjoyed a fabulous barbecue dinner accompanied with lots of conversations and chutzpah. The club they visited was really swanky and elite. They danced to their heart's content. Both the girls gulped down drink after drink and were dancing like there was no tomorrow. Gautam on the other hand stayed sober as he had to drive. He was on a continuous lookout for the girls. There were so many girls hitting on him but he chose to ignore them as his focus was looking after his drunk friends. Around 2 am they left the club when the girls were fully sloshed by then.
Once in Damini’s room, Gautam helped them settle. The girls were tipsy and in their own world. Shreya totally out of her senses hugged Gautam and tried kissing him. He was appalled.
“What are you doing Shreya?”, Gautam pushed her away.
“Something I've wanted to do since ages. Don’t you realize I’m in love with you? I don’t remember how and when I fell for you, but for me, there's no one else. You are my everything Gautam”, Shreya replied hurt.
“No no Shreya. I’ve never looked at you that way. You’ve got it all wrong”, said Gautam.
“You don’t realize the lengths I’ve gone to for you. All those girls who stood you up or cancelled their dates do you really know why they did that? It was all because of me. I threatened them and then paid them heaps of money to silence them. Why do you think they were never heard of again. I’ve done so much to make you mine and yet you refuse to acknowledge my love Gautam?”, Shreya asked with tearful eyes.
“I don’t love you Shreya. There’s someone else I love. She is the one I fancy”, Gautam tried to reason with Shreya.
“Who is it? Tell me? Who is it you love? Do I know her? Of course, I’ve got to know her. We’ve always been together in the same circles. Who is she Gautam?”, Shreya screamed.
“It’s Damini. I love her”, Gautam said. He was on his knees and his arms over his head. He couldn’t believe he would acknowledge his love to her like this. He looked at Damini with pleading eyes.
Shreya was shattered. She couldn’t believe what she just heard. The earth beneath her shook.
She looked at Damini accusingly. “How could you Damini? I’m sure you knew all along what I felt for him and yet you took him away from me”, Shreya broke into sobs.
Damini was a silent spectator all this while. She didn’t know what she just heard. Did Gautam confess his love for her? She couldn’t believe it. She looked at Gautam on his knees and then at Shreya who was inconsolable, she didn’t know what to do. Finally, she mustered her courage and went to Shreya, “Shreyu you really think I knew about Gautam’s feelings for me? Do you think I would deceive you? I was the one who helped you threaten all those girls. I was your accomplice in all your misdeeds. Trust me, dear.”
Gautam looked at the girls in shock. It didn’t matter what they did with all those other girls throughout school and college as he really wasn’t interested in any of them. For him, it was always Damini. She was the one for whom he chose to study business and it was because of her he chose a firm in Bangalore to work in as well.
He looked at Damini with tearful eyes, “Damini don’t you have any feelings for me. Is it because you are scared of breaking Shreya’s trust and losing her friendship? Answer me. Don’t you love me as well?”
Damini jeered his hand away. “Gautam you’ve always been a good friend for me, that’s it. I've never considered you anything more. I’ve never loved you”.
She went to Shreya and held her hand, “Shreyu don’t you realize it's you I love. Everything I’ve been doing is for you only. I couldn’t see you hurt over the girls Gautam dated so I joined in your plan to see a smile on your face. I thought in time you would realize my love. All those things I purchased were for you. Yes, You were right. I knew these earrings would look stunning on you. I love the way you carry the stilettos on your lean frame. I love the way my clothes look on your body. It feels as though I’m caressing you…”
“Stop! Stop! Stop! Damini stop! I can’t hear you go on. You are a lesbian and you never told me? You must have guessed I love Gautam and its only him for me. Why did you have to say all this and spoil our friendship?”
“Spoiled? Oh no! I mended things properly today. Now there will be no one between us. We will finally be together always. Just you and me, My Shreyu”, smiled Damini.
“What are you saying? Why are you smiling like that? You are scaring me Damini. Gautam please take me to some hotel for the night. I can’t be here anymore”, Shreya rushed to Gautam.
Gautam just sat there dazed. He was looking blankly at the floor. “Gautam what’s wrong with you. Do you still love her? Even after hearing to what all she said? Do you still have feelings for her? Get up Gautam. Let's go from here.”
Damini came near Gautam and tapped his shoulders. He fell on the floor. His eyes were glazed. Just staring ahead.
Shreya shrieked. “Gautam are you OK? Why aren't you getting up? Gautam can you hear me?”
Damini went near Shreya and hugged her. Shreya was scared with the way she was behaving, “Shreyu if to see you smile I could help in threatening those girls, don’t you think I am very much capable of killing Gautam if I feel he is getting in the way of our love? He can never love you the way I do. In fact, no one else can.”
Gautam was found dead in the apartment due to poisoning by the building watchman. There was no trace of either Shreya and Damini.
They had vanished into thin air.
Like all those girls who fancied Gautam in Delhi and mysteriously disappeared!