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Devangi Mistry

Abstract Drama Romance


Devangi Mistry

Abstract Drama Romance

Take Off 4

Take Off 4

34 mins 265 34 mins 265

“No mumma, I am not interested in it.” Saahil said while he sat with Bhadra in her room. Bhadra’s room had a small balcony with a statue of Budhha carved out of stone. She was wearing a red brocade saree with ruby earrings. Her skin was wrinkled, though she had her face lifted. She had a fair complexion. Her nose was long and lips puckered up with red lipstick on them. 

“Don’t take any decision in haste. You will regret it later on.” Bhadra said in her low, composed voice. Saahil nodded his head in disapproval. The late afternoon sun was lighting up the room on the ground floor through the light well. Saahil was in his pyjamas and a casual t-shirt.

“No, why would I regret it? We have Naitik. On top of that you have Arshika and Upen too. Why do you want a fourth child now?” Saahil questioned her. Bhadra leaned forward.

“I don’t want it. You will want it. All your life you kept saying that you don’t want to get married. Now when you are married, you are happy, aren’t you? Similarly, right now you think you don’t want a child, but soon you would want to have one, till that time it might be too late!” Bhadra proffered.

“No mom! I don’t want an added burden on myself now, nor do I want Ira to suffer!” Saahil argued, getting a bit irritated.

“But don’t say after some years that you wish you had a child!” Bhadra retorted. 

“No! Not at all! I cannot handle it anyway. I just want to live freely with Ira, without any extra responsibilities.” Saahil replied.

“Okay, as you wish!” Bhadra remarked while getting up from her chair to leave for her friend’s birthday party. She adjusted her saree and wrapped the loose end around her shoulder while walking out of the room. Saahil glanced at her as he got up too. While coming out of Bhadra’s room, he happened to meet Naitik who gave him a judicious look and walked away. 

“This is the peak, right behind where I am standing, where the skirmish happened last night between the soldiers of India and the neighbouring country. Towards the far right, till your eyes can see, the whole area is being claimed by them, whereas officially it comes under Indian territory. Given the fact that it is not even occupied by our neighbour, its sudden claim over this strip of land is alarming and raises a lot of questions about the future of the subcontinent’s geo-politics.” Ira finished her reporting from ground zero in Ladakh while her colleague moderated the debate inside the studio. It must be 4:30 in the evening. Ira was reporting live as her hair billowed in the mountain wind. The sky behind her was a clear blue and the mountains sparkled in the background. 

“What do you have to say Ms. Urvashi?” Junaid Kaif, the news anchor asked his guest, who was a political analyst. 

“I think it has all happened after India announced its project of building a power plant in the region. If India would have stayed away from the territory which our neighbour has occupied, they would not have become so aggressive.” She elaborated her point of view.

“So you want to say that they keep doing whatever they want to do and we just sit helplessly as mute witnesses!” Junaid’s pitch was raised as he confronted the guest. 

“See, in recent years, India’s stance has become more aggressive, and the decision to build a power plant so close to their border is really a subtle violation of our own neighbours first policy.” Urvashi argued.

“So you mean to say that in order to keep the relevance of this policy we keep pleasing our neighbours at our own cost!” Junaid became stern.

“Junaid, can I add something?” Ira intervened from her position, while on the call.

“Yes, yes Ira!” Junaid replied.

“It is not a violation of our neighbours first policy because in no way have we been directly aggressive towards our neighbour. Secondly, in the last few years the extended neighbourhood of India has become much more stable than what it was before, hence we can play on the front foot in order to wield our own power and balance the power dynamics in the subcontinent.” Ira spoke with a certain authority in her voice. 

“True, absolutely correct Ira!” He remarked. Urvashi nodded her head in disapproval. 

Saahil had flown to Paris. The Orgy International Airport was as crowded as IG Airport in Delhi. Not much difference. The only difference was that everyone was speaking in an alien language which Saahil did not understand. As he was walking while dragging his luggage behind him, a flight attendant, Jayadeepa Ghosh, walked up to him.

“Hi!” She exclaimed. Saahil was startled as he turned to see a young, tall and dusky woman, dressed in yellow skirt and white shirt, say hi to him. 

“Hi.” Saahil responded. Before shifting to ReadyGo, he had been working for a French airline. 

“You were on the flight?” He remarked while talking to that woman. Suddenly two dings rang across the airport premises. A lady’s voice started to echo in French.

“Nous vous accueillons à la ville de Paris et nous souhaitons que votre séjour soit agréable et confortable.” The lady ended her sentence. Saahil was bewildered by that language. 

“She said that we welcome you to the city of Paris and hope that your stay is pleasant and comfortable.” That flight attendant translated the announcement for Saahil. 

“You know French?” He asked in puzzlement.

“Yes! That’s why I can work for them.” She replied genially. 

“By the way I am Jayadeepa, you are First Officer Saahil, right?” She remarked.

“Yeah.” He answered. 

“You have been flying since?” She asked, curiously.

“One year!” He replied in a prompt way. 

Saahil was watching the tennis match on television when Arshika came into his room. Ira was away on her Ladakh tour, covering the current events on the border. There was some time before dinner. 

“Hey chacha!” Arshika exclaimed while coming in. Saahil nodded as he smiled. 

“How is college?” Saahil asked casually. 

“Nice.” She replied. The air had started to turn cold, it was late September. The crickets outside had started to chirp as well. A few vessels clanked inside the kitchen on the ground floor. The aroma of some delicious dish was swirling across the house. 

“I wanted to ask something.” Arshika said.

“Yeah.” Saahil responded. 

“I wanted to go with my friends on a trip.” She answered. Saahil looked at her. 

“Trip?” He remarked.

“Yes, Sonali, Chehal and Parul will be coming. We are planning to go to Manipur.” Arshika explained. She looked at Saahil expectantly. 

“When?” Saahil asked, knitting his brows.

“Next week or so…” She responded airily.

“Then why didn’t you ask Sameer?” Saahil questioned her.

“You know he will never allow me...I want you to talk to him!” She earnestly requested him.

“Hmm, okay. Will others also come or only you four?” Saahil asked.

“Only us four.” She answered. Lakshman called on the intercom, dinner was ready. Saahil and Arshika went down to the dining table.

Ranjan Mama had come to visit Bhadra, his sister. Ira was still in Ladakh and it would take some more days before she would be back to Delhi. Upen and Arshika bowed down to touch his feet while Naitik glanced at them quizzically. Saahil nudged him to go forward and touch Ranjan Mama’s feet as well. 

“Bhailu!” Bhadra exclaimed in Gujarati, referring to her younger brother. He smiled at her sanguinely while spreading his arms to hug Bhadra. Sameer and Snehal also stood by the side. Lakshman told Birju to take the bags inside and put them in the guest room. Saahil looked on with a mischievous smile on his face. Naitik was curious.

“What is it?” He asked Saahil.

“Nothing!” Saahil replied, knitting his eyebrows.

“Did you talk to papa about my trip?” Arshika suddenly intervened between Naitik and Saahil’s conversation.

“Yes, he is fine with it. But you are telling the truth, no? Only you four girls are going?” Saahil asked assertively.

“Yess chacha!” Arshika exclaimed. Saahil nodded.

They had to stay in Paris for two days before they flew back to India. Saahil and Jayadeepa decided to explore the city. It was peak season, tourists swarmed around all the tourist spots of the city. 

“I guess, we can better stay in the hotel itself!” Jayadeepa remarked looking at the crowd in front of the Musée d’Orsay.

“We can go to this place...Jaardine Dess Planteess…” Saahil grimaced while trying to pronounce the name of the garden as Jayadeepa laughed heartily. 

“Ha ha! It’s Jardin des Plantes!” She corrected him while he looked at her bug eyed. 

“French is really an incredible language. What they write, how they pronounce it...even god would get confused listening to them!” Saahil punned. Jayadeepa laughed pleasantly as she slapped Saahil’s shoulder lightly. 

“Let’s go then...the flowers will be in full bloom right now.” He said. 

Jayadeepa was overwhelmed by the beautiful flowers blooming in their full glory all across the garden. Different colours, different sizes and different shapes. She spontaneously held Saahil’s hand as he was a bit taken aback. He withdrew his hand inadvertently. She gave him a short quizzical glance before gazing back at the flowers. Saahil kept looking fixedly at the scenery without glancing back at her. At some distance a French couple was engaged in a deep, passionate kiss. 

It was the time of G.S. elections. The preparations were in full swing. Ira was supporting Harshad Jamval whereas Saahil was supporting Shalaka Bose, a girl who had a lot of admirers across the batch, even the entire senior school. 

“You know that Saahil...I have noticed that he keeps looking at you...” Tanusha remarked while she was making pompoms for the election campaign. Ira kept writing a slogan on the chart paper. Manvi was busy making paper badges for everyone who was going to support Harshad.

“I don’t think so. He must have just glanced at me inadvertently.” Ira replied in an airy tone, brushing away the topic.

“No! You will see! He does like you!” Tanusha exclaimed.

“Whatever, I am not interested in anyone.” Ira retorted as she completed her slogan and moved to the next chart paper. 

“He is a class representative in his section.” Manvi joined the conversation.

“I think he is supporting Shalaka because she likes him. Once she becomes G.S., she will automatically take Saahil in the executive.” She added. 

“But why are we even talking about him?” Ira got irritated. Manvi giggled.

“No, Saahil likes you. You bet?” Tanusha retorted.

“No!” Ira replied. 

“Let’s go. It's lunch. We have to do the campaigning too.” She continued as the school bell rang and the sounds of drums and steel dishes could be heard from the ground floor. The campaign had begun as people started to shout out slogans. Ira and Tanusha with Manvi behind them, went to look down from the corridor. Shalaka was standing at the back side of the auditorium, near the medical room, on the raised platform. Her long, dusky legs and athletic build could make any girl envy her. Saahil stood beside her while shouting slogans of her name. Some others beat the dishes and drums as a crowd gathered in front of them. Ira gazed at Saahil from above when he suddenly looked up. 

Ira stepped back to avoid meeting his gaze. As Shalaka’s campaigners shouted slogans in front of the canteen, Harshad’s campaigners arrived soon. Both the parties in front of each other shouting their own slogans. The atmosphere was electrifying. 

“Victory for Shalaka Bose! Victory for Shalaka Bose!” Saahil cheered while clapping his hands.

“Who will be our next G.S.? Harshad Jamval, others go rest! Who will be our next G.S.? Harshad Jamval, others go rest!” Ira bellowed as she stood in front of Saahil. Her cheeks were smeared in red colour while Saahil was wearing an orange wristband. They looked into one anothers’ eyes as their voices clashed against each other. 

Ranjan Mama was sitting in the living room on the centre sofa. Bhadra and he were chattering for an hour about their childhood. Their childhood home, their school, their college, their friends, their scandals. Naitik was getting bored. Snehal was in the kitchen. Sameer had left for office. Upen and Arshika watched blankly. Saahil was getting amused. 

“Take this!” Bhadra exclaimed.

“Shake miss?” Ranjan Mama shouted, leaning in to listen clearly. 

“Take this!” Bhadra said in a high pitch as Birju brought some juice. Ranjan mama nodded while taking the glass. Naitik was glancing again and again at Upen, signalling him to get up and leave together. Arshika was signalling both of them to not get up. Naitik scowled. 

“And Saahil! Lagan kari lidu! You finally got married! Un fakat tari bairi ne malva mate aivo! I specially came here to meet your wife!” Ranjan mama remarked while looking towards Naitik.

“Saahil is this side, to your left!” Bhadra exclaimed. Saahil waved to him to make him know where he was actually standing. 

“Oh ya ya...this cataract!” Ranjan mama remarked wryly.

“Tamara operation kyare chhe? When is your operation?” Saahil asked with concern.

“Bay maas maa. After two months, the doctor said it still needs some time.” Ranjan mama replied. 

“Where is Ira?” He questioned.

“She is not here, she is in Ladakh.” Saahil answered.

“Talaq?” Ranjan mama shouted in bewilderment. 

“Ladakh! Ladakh!” Saahil shouted at an even higher pitch than him.

“Oh...why? She has become a monk?” Mama quipped. Saahil feigned laughter.

“No! She has gone for some work. She will come back this week only. You will be able to meet her.” He replied. Naitik started to play a game on his phone. Bhadra snatched the phone from his hand. He frowned in annoyance and slumped back in his seat.

“When are you giving the good news?” Ranjan mama continued to talk to Saahil. Naitik glanced up. Saahil was startled.

“Sochu chhun.” He said that he was thinking.

“Aaa maa sochvanu su chhe? Kari nakh!! The time for thinking is gone! Nauheed jode lagan kari levu joitu atu tane! Oh how I wish you had married Nauheed...Aatli saras chhokri ati! She was such a good girl! You would have been having grown up children till now!” Ranjan mama remarked.

“But ok, Bhadra told me you married your childhood friend! Aa terrorist ni bairi ati ne? She was a terrorist’s wife, no?” He commented. Saahil raised his brow while gazing at Bhadra.

“Bhailu, let’s go. You must be tired. We can talk in the evening!” Bhadra ended the conversation as everyone started to get up. 

“How irritating!” Naitik whispered in Upen’s ears.

“You said something?” Ranjan mama remarked while staring at Naitik.

Upen and Naitik looked nonplussed.

“Kayi nathi! Nothing! Mumma, please take him to his room!” Saahil intervened while telling Bhadra to take mama away.

It was a free period. Ira, Tanusha and Manvi were sitting in the library while others went to the sports ground. Still other students just loitered around the school premises, avoiding the eyes of the teachers.

The fan was making a rickety noise overhead as the leaves of the book flapped in an unruly manner on the table.

“See I told you! Shalaka became the G.S. and took Saahil in her executive council!” Manvi remarked with a sense of victory. Tanusha pouted her lips in annoyance. 

“He is in-charge of Sports Affairs?” Ira asked casually.

“Yes.” Manvi answered. 

“But it does not prove anything! Saahil likes Ira only!” Tanusha intervened. 

“You bet? Saahil and Shalaka will soon be in a relationship!” Manvi challenged Tanusha. Ira looked on. The librarian peeped in to see what the noise was about. All of them toned down and dug their heads into the book.

“Bet!” Tanusha accepted the challenge.

“If I win you will do my homework for a week!” Tanusha said to Manvi.

“And if you lose, you will give us all a treat in Big Tortoise!” Manvi retorted. Tanusha nodded.

“May I come in ma’am!” Someone asked for permission to get inside the library. Ira, Tanusha and Manvi looked up, Saahil was standing at the door, adjusting his badge. The librarian nodded to let him come in. Tanusha smiled widely as Ira pulled her arm to stop her from reacting so loudly. Saahil looked at the three of them from the corner of his eyes, smiling in a subdued manner.

“See! He is looking at you!” Tanusha exclaimed while fixedly gazing at Saahil. He was busy with the librarian to get his library card made. Ira turned Tanush’a face around.

“Stop looking at him!” Ira exclaimed. Manvi rolled her eyes.

“He will be with Shalaka.'' She said as Saahil turned around to look at them. They stopped chattering while calming themselves down. Ira could feel her cheeks go red as he gazed at her with a straight face. His eyes had a noncommittal expression. 

“Saahil beta, here, take it, your card is ready!” The librarian remarked as Saahil turned back and took his card from her hands. 

Jayadeepa sat in front of Saahil while they dined in the hotel restaurant. Saahil was frenziedly looking for a vegetarian dish. He was even more anxious because he didn’t even understand what was written on the menu. He frowned in irritation. Jayadeepa stood up from her seat to sit beside him while peeping into the menu which he held in his hand. Saahil shifted a bit as Jayadeepa came close. 

“What? Is there an issue?” Jayadeepa asked politely.

“No.” He replied nervously.

“Then? Why are you avoiding me?” She questioned him. The restaurant was abuzz with people. The clinking of wine glasses and forks against the plates as well as a low murmur could be heard in the background. A few waiters walked around.

“I am not avoiding you…” Saahil answered warily, feeling a bit uncomfortable.

“What are you searching for in the menu?” She changed the topic.

“A vegetarian dish.” He whimpered. She chuckled. Taking the menu from his hands she ran her eyes through it.

“Yes, there is a salad, you can order.” She pointed to the menu. Her red nail paint shone brightly over her dark skin. 

“Thanks.” Saahil said shyly. She smiled at him. 

It had been a few days since Ira had come back from Ladakh. Arshika had already left with her friends to Manipur. The whole house echoed with Ranjan mama’s banter in Gujarati while he kept shouting from time to time due to his impaired hearing. The kitchen used to smell of traditional Gujarati dishes. Today Undhiyu was prepared for lunch along with puris and Shreekhand. 

“Arshika is missing it all out!” Ira exclaimed while slurping a bit as the smell of food reached her nostrils. She was sitting in the bedroom while Saahil was checking whether all the almirahs were locked properly.

“What are you doing?” She remarked, Saahil locked the last cupboard and turned around while keeping the keys in his pocket.

“You will know soon.” He replied. Suddenly someone knocked at the door. Saahil opened it, it was Ranjan mama. 

“Mama! How come you are here?” He asked quizzically.

“Why? Am I not allowed to visit your room? Did I disturb you?” Ranjan mama questioned back. 

“Jyare nayi! No! Not at all!” Saahil replied while stepping back. Ira stood up too, adjusting her dress. Ranjan mama walked in with a limp while his waist jerked a bit. He sat on the chair beside the bed.

“So Ira beta, how do you like it here? Bhadra bothers you?” He asked Ira in a loud voice while looking towards Saahil. 

“Mama. Ira is there, I am Saahil, here!” Saahil responded while pulling Ira forward to make Ranjan mama see her clearly. Mama adjusted his glasses while creasing his eyes.

“Yes!” He exclaimed. 

“Why are you standing? Sit!” He shouted out to Ira. She pulled her face back in order to protect her ears from hurting. She sat down on the edge of the bed. 

“I am good! Mom does not bother me!” She replied.

“Tom bus hot!?” Ranjan mama exclaimed quizzically. 

“Mom! Mom does Not!” Saahil shouted in his ears. Ranjan mama screwed his face even more.

“Pom? Pompom!?” He shouted at a higher pitch. Saahil slapped his forehead in irritation. 

“Sambhdho nathi ke su?” He exclaimed loudly in Gujarati saying that can you not listen?

“Handvo pati?” Ranjan mama shouted, completely perplexed. Handvo is the name of a Gujarati delicacy. Ira started to laugh. There was a two rupee coin lying on the centre table. 

“Handvo nathi! IRA IS SAYING THAT MOM DOES NOT BOTHER HER!” Saahil enunciated loudly while miming clearly with his lips. Mama heard him this time.

“Ok, okay.” He said while calming down. Lunch had been served downstairs.

“Let’s go, I am very hungry!” Ranjan mama said while getting up. As he left, Ira looked at the table.

“Hey! Where is the coin?” She exclaimed. Saahil looked at her meaningfully. Ira widened her eyes. 

“So Manvi is now doing Tanusha’s homework?” Saahil exclaimed curiously as Ira nodded. They were sitting on the platform bordering the flowerbed on the brick path leading to the canteen. 

“When I told them that you said that you liked me, Manvi became very disappointed!” She giggled as Saahil laughed. 

“Wow! Even you people bet over boys!” He exclaimed.

“Why?” She asked.

“No, I thought only we boys do such things!” He responded. Students were passing by in front of them. It was break time. Two friends walked away with a plate of dosa. Saahil took a soy chip from the packet which Ira was holding.

“Did you have anything with Shalaka?” Ira asked airily. Saahil arched his brow.

“She did like me.” He said with a roguish smile. 

“ you fooled her?” Ira remarked. Saahil chuckled.

“No, she was not so interested either…” He answered.

“Very bad! You will fool me some day!” She retorted.

“Arrey! She didn’t like me yaar...I am just joking!” He exclaimed.

“Ya, now you are joking!” She remarked mockingly. Three students came scurrying into the brick path, declaring loudly that principal ma’am was coming towards this side. Ira pulled a girl passing by and made her sit beside her while Saahil made some space between himself and Ira. The principal arrived while glancing at them. Ira and Saahil pretended to talk to that girl airily while she walked by. 

“Which class are you in?” Ira asked, wrapping her arm around the girl’s shoulder.

“7th.” She replied in a chirpy voice. Saahil smiled.

“Okay, go now!” Ira said while making the girl stand up.

“My remuneration?” The girl remarked. Saahil and Ira glanced at her in amazement. 

“What?...” Saahil asked quizzically.

“I will tell principal ma’am that you both pulled me to save yourselves from getting caught!” The girl exclaimed. Saahil glanced at Ira. 

“Okay, what do you want?” Ira asked.

“Canteen food for a week, for me and my friend!” The girl said while smiling innocuously at them. Saahil scoffed. 

“What?!” Sameer exclaimed sharply. Snehal dashed up to the lounge area on the second floor. Everyone was startled. Saahil too came out of his room. Ira was in her office. Sameer was shouting at the top of his voice.

“How did she do this!” Sameer yelled while talking to someone on the phone, his voice echoed in the house. 

“What happened?” Saahil pranced up the stairs to reach the lounge. 

Sameer looked at him, disgruntled as he hung up the phone. Saahil glanced at him in puzzlement. Ranjan mama gawked around. 

“I got a call from Aadil’s mother, he is in Arshika’s class. Aadil also left his house with some excuse that he is going with his friends, now his mother has called me up and informed me that these kids have gone together! Aadil is Arshika’s boyfriend!” Sameer yelled with rage as Snehal tried to calm him down. Saahil furrowed his brows while stepping closer to him.

“War! War!” Lakshman came scurrying in. Everyone looked at him, baffled. 

“Switch on the television!” He exclaimed. A news anchor was reading the latest news that the neighbouring country had barged into the Siliguri Corridor in Darjeeling and that there was an emergency imposed in the NorthEast. Anytime, India could get into a full fledged hot war with its neighbour. Saahil hastily dialled Ira’s number.

“Yes Saahil, it is true, we are still receiving details, the whole of NorthEast is put under emergency!” Ira said on the other side of the phone while standing in her channel’s office. Saahil hung up the phone while Sameer started dialling Arshika’s number. Her number was out of coverage. 

“All the air and rail transport is suspended!” Saahil exclaimed. Sameer pressed his lips in stress, walking up and down. 

“But private aircrafts are still allowed.” Saahil uttered. Everyone glanced at him. 

“I have a friend in the ministry. I will arrange for the permit. You prepare for takeoff.” Sameer stated.

“You shout so well!” Saahil remarked as Ira and he were climbing up the stairs to go to their classrooms after the morning assembly. It was their weekly test today. Other students swarmed around them too. 

“When did you hear me shout?” Ira asked inquisitively.

“During the election campaign! The way you bellowed! I was stunned for a moment. I mean, with such a dulcet of a voice, how can you get that bellow up through your stomach?” He asked in awe. Ira giggled airily.

“That’s why Harshad too became the Deputy G.S.!” She quipped.

“Saahil! Saahil! You know the answer to this question?” Mridul poked him from behind, his voice was rushed as he was panting. Saahil looked at the notebook. 

“But why are you asking a physics question?” He remarked while furrowing his brows. 

“Because we have a physics test today!” Mridul answered looking quizzically at Saahil. Saahil gazed at Mridul nonplussed. Ira knitted her brows. 

“What? You have prepared for physics only?” Mridul asked Saahil with concern. He gasped.

“I prepared for chemistry!” He uttered. Ira widened her eyes.

“Oh bete! Now you are gone!” She mocked Saahil as he scowled in distress. Mridul frowned too. Ira was barely able to control her laughter as Saahil grimaced at her. 

“Idiot!” Mridul exclaimed while punching Saahil in his back. He yelped.

“All the best!” Ira said in a cloying way as she left for her classroom. Saahil shrugged his shoulders in dejection. 

Sameer sat in his car hurriedly as Saahil took the passenger seat. Ira sat in the backseat. Bhadra and Ranjan mama saw them off from the threshold. The gateman opened the door as their car zoomed away. 

“I have arranged for three permits, for all of us.” Sameer said with a shaking voice as he accelerated the car.

“Calm down Sameer.” Saahil exclaimed. Ira looked out of the window. 

“We will have to land at Bagdogra.” Saahil remarked.

“We cannot fly over the Siliguri Corridor. From there we have to travel by road and reach Imphal.” He completed his sentence. 

Abhi naa jao chhod kar ke dil abhi bhara nahi...

Ira was practicing her song with the lead pianist while Saahil rehearsed his steps as some other boys accompanied him. The stage was buzzing with people. Tomorrow the batch of class eleventh had to perform for the outgoing batch of class twelfth before the Tika ceremony took place. Some other students were working on the video which they had made for the twelthies capturing all the small and big moments of school life. The music teachers checked the mike arrangements as the english teacher listened to the comperer to make last minute changes in the script. Some twelthies tried to peep in, but the eleventhies pushed them out.

“Okay, one last time!” The girl who choreographed the dance announced as the song started to play.

Balle balle kehke oh nachdi haye tera tappna haye tera nachna...

Usually bollywood songs were not allowed to be played in school premises, but on some special occasions, exceptions could be made with enough editing and chopping of the song. Everyone started to dance. Saahil and six other boys had to dance below the stage, directly in front of the audience whereas the girls had to dance above. 

“Ira! Come. Do your singing afterwards, we are practicing the dance!” A girl of her batch called her. Ira left the paper with the lyrics on a side and joined in. The tap of the feet with the banging of drums made the whole auditorium resonate. The teachers watched over the practice. 

Chhad de tu saare gham, mehbooba meri ban, saara kuchh bhul ke tu saadde naal nach nach leh…

The students started to do the hook step as the boys turned around and the girls clapped their hands. Saahil looked into Ira’s eyes who was dancing just behind him. The teachers rejoiced looking at the innocent smiles on the students’ faces. 

“Listen, listen! I have an idea!” A boy shouted after the song ended. 

“Why don’t we wear sunglasses?” He said excitedly. The girls got excited. Ira grinned as Saahil glanced at her. 

Saahil’s plane twinkled in the night sky as they were about to reach the final approach. The glittering runway could be seen through the flaky clouds. A few mountains could be seen at some distance. As soon as they made the final touchdown, they could feel the jitters of an impending war. The whole airport was sealed. Military personnel patrolled the entire premises. Sameer hurriedly took out the permits as they approached the checkpoint. An officer stopped them to see their identity. They stood warily in front of him as he checked their ID cards and the permits.

“Why have you come here?” The officer asked in a stern tone.

“My daughter is stuck in Imphal.” Sameer replied apprehensively. The officer furrowed his brows. 

“And you two?” He looked at Ira and Saahil.

“I am his brother, she is my wife.” Saahil replied. A siren rang in the background. 

“Sir everything is clear, he is Sameer Shroff, he has contacts in the ministry, you can let them go!” Another officer came up and informed the officer who was questioning them. 

“Go.” The officer uttered indifferently as they rushed to their car. Sameer put the bags in the backseat while plunging inside the car. Ira sat in the driver’s seat as Saahil leaned back on the passenger seat beside her, completely tired. She fastened her seatbelt as it was going to be a long journey. 

“You looked very good in those shades.” Ira remarked while they were chatting over the phone. It was their summer vacation.

“I know, I am handsome!” Saahil replied with an air of superiority. Ira chuckled.

“I needed some help.” Ira said.

“What?” He asked.

“Can you be my subject?” She said in a casual tone. Saahil was puzzled.

“What kind of subject?” He asked apprehensively.

“Psychology, I want to do your psychoanalysis.” She explained.

“No! No! I am not a psycho!” He retorted warily.

“Shut up! The day you proposed to me you proved that you are one!” She punned. 

“Chal na!” He exclaimed.

“Please, we have this assignment. I have to do a project in which I have to do the psychoanalysis of a person. You become my subject.” She requested him. Saahil paused.

“Okay…” He finally yielded.

“I will be doing dramaturgy over you.” She stated.

“Sounds like an allergy. I will be fine in the end, no?” He questioned apprehensively. Ira rolled her eyes. 

“I am joking...Fine, I am in.” He said.

“I will arrange for the video call, I will be recording your answers if you don’t mind?” She said excitedly.

“Ok!” He obliged.

The roads were still and silent. Only a few private vehicles passed amongst many more military jeeps. From time to time the sound of air force choppers could be heard whizzing through the sky. Ira put the headlights on full power as the roads were completely dark. Saahil had his eyes closed as Sameer looked outside the window. The map kept showing the directions while a woman’s voice resounded in the background, giving all the clues as to which turn to take next. 

“Cookies?” Ira offered a pack to Sameer, he took one piece. She stopped the car at a lone petrol pump. Saahil opened his eyes. 

“What time is it?” He inquired.

“5 in the morning.” Sameer answered. Saahil got out of the car to take some fresh air and stretch his legs. 

“You should have checked before sending Arshika away, Saahil!” Ira remarked while walking up to him.

“Excuse me?” He uttered.

“Even I can tell you that you should have checked before marrying Puneet!” He exclaimed in a hushed voice. Ira scowled at him.

“No! Don’t look at me like that! Don’t blame me! Why don’t you go and say this to Sameer?” He exclaimed, rolling his eyes.

“Hello, you talked to Sameer to give permission to Arshika to come to Manipur!” Ira retorted.

“So, you mean I am responsible?” He argued.

“No, I am responsible!” Ira snapped back. 

“Enough you guys! Don’t start here! We have to reach Imphal as soon as possible! It’s still 12 hours away!” Sameer chided both of them. 

Come away with me in the night, come away with me, come away with me and I will write you a song...

Saahil was in his room in the hotel in Paris as the music played in the background. Just then Jayadeepa knocked at his door. 

“Is everything okay?” He asked with concern as Jayadeepa entered his room. 

“Ya, I just came to sit with you?” She replied casually. Saahil gazed at her.

“If it’s okay for you?” She added. 

“Ya...but you don’t want to sleep, it's pretty late at night.” He answered apprehensively.

“I can’t sleep.” She replied plainly while she sat on the chair. He sat beside her on the bed looking into the distance while shaking his legs.

“Are you feeling seem nervous!” She remarked. Saahil got stiff as he stopped shaking his legs. 

“Ya, you had some work?” He said absentmindedly. He started to scroll down the messages in his messaging app. 

“No, I just wanted to say that I liked your company during the day.” Jayadeepa said in a hesitant tone. She tilted her head to see what his reaction was. He kept gazing at his mobile screen.

“Saahil?” She exclaimed. He suddenly stopped scrolling. A new status update popped up. It was by Ira. He could see it faintly in the bubble on the left, but he still opened it to see clearly. 

Ira was sitting with Puneet in her wedding canopy as a few flames of fire rose up from the homa in the centre. It was a black and white picture. Ira’s eyes sparkled as she looked deeply into Puneet’s eyes whose full face could not be seen, only the side profile was visible. It was a candid photograph. Suddenly the photo changed. The next photo had Puneet and Ira in a tight hug, Puneet lightly kissed Ira’s temple while wrapping his arms around her waist from behind as she shyly looked away. The photo changed again. The next photo had Puneet lift Ira in his arms while she laughed heartily under the sun. Her hair blowing in the wind. Then the last photo slid in, Puneet had lovingly cupped Ira’s baby bump in his hands from behind while she placed her own hands on top of his, both looking down at her tummy affectionately.

“I think I should go.” Jayadeepa said while getting up from her chair. Saahil held her wrist while still gazing at his screen. 

“Don’t go.” He whispered in a breathy voice. 

“No! Captain Radhika Kulkarni met me at the airport when I reached Delhi!” Ira shouted while Sameer was driving the car. It was early morning. The highway was flanked by mountains on both sides. The sky was clear as the moon was slowly fading away under the first rays of the sun. 

“Radhika Kulkarni? Who?” Saahil asked in puzzlement.

“Achha! You don’t know?” Ira became hyper. 

“Don’t act smart!” She lashed out.

“She told me you were listening to some wierd songs! You called me a witch!” Ira spoke sharply. Saahil went quiet. Sameer was getting exasperated. He took a right turn.

No! When did I call you a witch?” Saahil fumbled while defending himself.

“Yes! You are fumbling! Means she was right!” Ira exclaimed.

“Arrey she must have had a fight with her husband!” Saahil remarked irritably. 

“Anyway she is half lordly she is, extremely smug!” He commented.

“Noooo….she was very polite with me!” Ira remarked mockingly. Saahil beat his head against the back of the passenger seat.

“Don’t push!” Ira retorted crossly. Sameer puffed out air through his mouth in irritation.

“You are engaging in unnecessary arguments!” Saahil lashed out.

“Who started it?” Ira shouted.

“Arrey toh kya karu main mar jaun?” He exclaimed.

“Ya she was saying that you were listening to why did you ditch me...kill me kill me…!” Ira grouched.

“You called me that!?” She quibbled ahead. Saahil grimaced while pressing his forehead.

“No, how can I say that?” He said calmly, trying to pacify Ira.

“NO! You are all the same! I should not have trusted you so much! All this while I kept feeling guilty for having left you! But you!! You didn’t even care!” She yelled. Saahil shook his head vehemently.

“What are you thinking?” Saahil whispered as they were strolling in the corridor of the second floor. The pre-boards were approaching soon.

“It’s the last six months.” Ira murmured. The CCTV camera watched over them.

“Of school.” Saahil clarified. Ira glanced at him.

“But you will go away too.” She mumbled, not looking at him. He tilted his head to look at her face. 

“But I will be back.” He uttered.

“Who knows, you will find someone else…” She said, petulantly.

“No, I won’t.” He stated in a firm tone. He turned her head towards him. She looked up, her eyes had gotten teary. He gazed at her earnestly. She looked down, a few drops of tear rolled down her cheeks. She blinked her eyes a few times to stop the tears. 

“Awe!” He remarked while wiping her cheeks. She gave him a cranky look. He puffed his face mimicking her. 

“You will come back, no?” She mewled while making a melancholic face. 

“Hmm. I will.” He said in a comforting tone. 

It was Saahil’s 25th birthday and the Shroff family was out for some fine dining. Saahil sat forlorn in a corner of the dining table as some waiters hovered around them speaking gently, asking for any service they could do. Bhadra took a shawl from one of the waiters. Saahil’s phone beeped. He looked at the screen. It was Jayadeepa’s message. 

“Happy birthday Mon Chéri!” She had written along with a few emojis.

“Merci.” Saahil wrote back.

“Vous semblez triste!” She replied.

“Je suis fatigué.” He wrote.

"Pourquoi?" She asked.

“Je veux vous voir.” He typed.

“Bien sur!” She wrote back promptly. He closed the app. Food had come. Sameer peeped into Saahil’s phone as Saahil hid it. He dunked his spoon into the bowl of soup, filling it up a little and started to blow it while Bhadra scowled at him. He dropped the spoon back into the bowl and slumped in his chair. 

They were just a few kilometres away from Imphal when their car stopped with a jerk. 

“What happened?” Ira asked. Sameer got out of the car. It was late afternoon. Saahil too got out. Sameer opened the bonnet. Ira opened the door of the backseat and walked towards the front. The engine had burnt out. 

“Can we fix this?” Saahil asked. 

“I don’t think so.” Sameer answered. Ira exhaled deeply through her nose. The sun was on the west. The highway was empty due to the emergency. 

“How will we move?” Ira got tense. Sameer kicked the tire of the car in frustration. 

“Relax.” Saahil said to Sameer. 

“We have to find someone who can help us.” He continued.

“There is no one till far…” Sameer exclaimed. Ira frowned. She was anxious. They were not able to establish any contact with Arshika or her friends throughout the journey. Saahil held Ira’s shoulder while telling her to calm down.

“I guess one of us should go to get some help.” Saahil suggested.

“Both of you go.” Ira proffered. 

“No!” Both Saahil and Sameer exclaimed at once.

“I will be fine. There is nobody here.” She remarked.

“That’s the issue.” Saahil exclaimed. Ira looked at him imploringly. 

“Please, Arshika is more important!” She urged Saahil.

Jayadeepa was waiting outside the gate of Lodhi Garden when Saahil got down from the cab. They both went inside. It must be late in the morning. They got a bench to sit on. Saahil gazed into the distance as Jayadeepa started to speak.

“You wanted to meet me?” She said in a low volume. Saahil nodded. She looked at him. Her hair was tied in a ponytail while she wore pearl ear studs. Her baby pink lucknowi kurta blew a bit as a breeze passed by. He leaned his head onto her shoulder. 

“What happened?” She asked with concern. 

“Would you forgive me if I tell you something?” He spoke in a monotone, looking at a naked tree in the front.

“What?” She asked.

“I don’t love you.” He murmured. She paused. Saahil kept his head leaning on her shoulder. She took her arm around Saahil’s shoulder and wrapped it snuggly.

“I know.” She uttered. A crow cawed on a branch of the tree under which they were sitting. Saahil looked up with a start.

“How?” He asked in puzzlement.

“I saw your mobile screen that night.” She replied plainly. Saahil gazed at her in bemusement.

“Then why did you stay back?” He asked quizzically. A car zoomed by on the adjacent road.

“Because even my phone keeps beeping with status updates.” She said while looking at him intently. Saahil kept looking into her eyes. She smiled wryly. 

There was a long pause.

“Let’s just be friends.” He said. 

“Let life decide that. Right now, just sit with me.” She replied as she held his hand and put it in her lap. She sniffed some air. Saahil closed his eyes as Ira’s face passed through in front of them. 

“Ira! Iraaaa!” Saahil shouted out into the distance as he was slowly being overcome with dread. He worriedly looked here and there on the desolate highway. The car was standing abandoned when Saahil and Sameer came back with a mechanic. The mechanic also went to search for her.

“No! I could not find her either!” Sameer came running back, panting. Saahil leaned against the car door as his knees became wobbly. 

“Saahil.” Sameer came close to support him as he was gasping for breath.

“Saahil breathe!” Sameer took out the bottle of water from the car. Saahil was getting sweaty as he slowly slid to the ground. 

“No sir, I asked around a few passing vehicles...they did not see any lady…” The mechanic came back. A military jeep came close and stopped by. Two officers got down and walked up to them. 

“What happened?” One officer asked. Sameer explained the whole situation. Saahil stood and listened silently. 

“Don’t worry we will start a search.” The officers were cooperative, they offered to help. Saahil’s heart sank as Sameer started to sit in the military jeep. 

“Saahil!” Ira called while walking up to them from a distance. Sameer got down from the jeep. The mechanic too looked perplexed. The officers watched over. 

“Ira!” Saahil exclaimed as he ran to her and clutched her tightly. Ira was startled. 

“What happened? I went to the loo!” She said as she felt suffocated while Saahil snugly wrapped himself around her.

“Loo! Where is the loo?” Saahil exclaimed with a cracking voice while still embracing her, his throat was choking.

“I mean, to the bushes…” She squeaked. 

“Saahil, I am feeling suffocated...are you crying?” She exclaimed as she felt her shoulder get wet. He started to tremble as he sobbed bitterly while Ira held him firmly.

“Arshika Shroff.” Sameer inquired at the reception of the hotel. They had reached Imphal finally. The receptionist looked into her system. 

“Yes, she is in room number 202.” The receptionist said in a peculiar North Eastern accent. Sameer ran to the lift as Saahil and Ira followed.

As Arshika opened the door, she spontaneously hugged Ira. The other four friends, including Aadil, looked at Saahil and Sameer expectantly. Sameer glanced at Aadil and then Arshika. 

“Uncle!” Aadil exclaimed as he rushed closer to Saahil. Saahil scowled.

“I mean sir!” Aadil fumbled. Saahil still gave him a dirty look. A few bottles of alcohol rumbled on the floor behind. Arshika glanced at Sameer. Sameer looked away. 

“Come, all of you!” Ira said in a stern tone as the five of them huddled behind her. Saahil and Sameer followed as they closed the door of the hotel room.

“You have taken your belongings?” Saahil asked everyone as they were sitting inside the car. They all nodded. 

“Those bottles, I didn’t drink…” Arshika mumbled while Saahil took a left. They were just a few metres away from their home. Ranjan mama was still there, ready to irritate.

“I know.” Saahil replied in a monotone, gazing ahead on the road. Aadil sat behind with Sameer, unable to move an inch. Ira had gone to drop the other three girls to their home. 

“We didn’t do anything...we just went there to spend some good time…” Aadil mumbled in a nervous tone while looking at Sameer apprehensively. Sameer gnawed his teeth as Saahil glanced in the rearview mirror. 

“We know.” Saahil responded while looking intently at Sameer in the mirror. The car stopped at the red light. Saahil switched on the radio. 

“Welcome to the daily bulletin. After a tight stand off between the two countries, finally the neighbouring country has decided to withdraw its forces from our territory. India and the world can now finally breathe a sigh of relief as a looming war has been avoided, all thanks to the astute diplomatic skills showcased by our diplomats. The emergency in the NorthEast region has also been lifted as life is now slowly getting back to normal.” 

The signal turned green. The car moved ahead. 



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