The Last Journey
The Last Journey9 mins 369 9 mins 369
“Oh god! Not again.” Aditi was sprinting on the station stairs to catch her train. The train had already arrived on the platform and today she was late. She began racing on the platform just when the local started departing. “Let me at least board the general compartment.” She continued running beside the departing train. A hand emerged suddenly from the door and she grabbed it. Aditi successfully boarded the train and was heavily panting. “Are you alright?” Rishi’s heavy voice almost startled her. It was then that she recognized who had helped her board the train and that she was still holding his hand. She hesitantly let go of his hand and composedly said” thank you so much for helping me to get in. I would have been late today and I already have 2 late marks.” They shared brief laughter.
The train now reached Thane station and as expected a huge crowd got in. And this being a Monday, the rush of people became uncontrollable. Aditi was getting tossed in the crowd; even Rishi was. But when he saw Aditi’s condition he protectively placed his arm between her and the neighboring crowd. Both knew it was not sufficient but Aditi’s sweet smile was enough to give Rishi an untold satisfaction. The rest of the journey towards CSMT went around silently. Sometimes, they shared a secret glance with an awkward smile. The local had reached its destination. “Thank you”, said Aditi and they parted their ways. That night was spent by them thinking about each other.
Today Aditi reached the station 5 minutes prior to the arrival of the train. She was waiting for the local but her eyes were searching for something else. Rishi saw her and waved at her. She waved back. ‘Should I approach him? But how will I do it? Won’t it seem weird?’ Aditi was lost in her own thoughts when Rishi approached her. “Hi, how are you?”
“I am good. How about you?”-Aditi.
“Yes, even I am fine.”-Rishi.
And then there was an awkward silence of 10 seconds. Meanwhile the local arrived at the station and they got in. They got a seat today. “What is your name?”-they asked the same question. After silly laughter, Rishi said” I am Rishi Malhotra. I am a banker.”
“Aditi Joshi. I work in a software firm.”
They began chatting afterwards. It was a friendly talk discovering each other’s whereabouts and job profiles.
“So, Aditi, where did you do your engineering?”-Rishi.
“I did it from Mumbai University.”-Aditi.
“Oh! Is it? Even I am a Mumbai university graduate. For my MBA, I had been in the US for 2 years.”-Rishi.
“Wow, so basically you are a US return. That’s wonderful.”-Aditi.
They reached their destination.
“Bye. See you.” They bid each other goodbye and left.
This continued for many days. They chatted more openly and seriously now about their families, friends, goals in life.
“Rishi, we didn’t share our contact numbers. Shall we exchange it? What do you say?”-Aditi.
And then they talked for the rest of the time as well. Aditi’s lunchtime was now completely occupied by Rishi’s calls and so was Rishi’s evening time which he ideally spent with his friends was now completely given to a chat with Aditi.
One day while travelling, the train came to halt with a sudden jerk. They unknowingly held each other’s hands.
Rishi was the first to recognize it. He stared at Aditi until she also recognized it. Each had an alarmed look on their faces. The rest of the journey was spent silently.
“Do I like her? Yes, I do. I feel happy when I am with her. Should I speak with Aditi about this? But will she like this; how will she react? Oh god!” Rishi was in an absolute confused state. He picked up the phone and dialed Aditi’s number.
“Hello, Aditi. Should we meet today for coffee? I have to speak something really important to you.”-Rishi.
“Is everything alright Rishi?”-Aditi.
“Yeah, everything is fine. Then, shall we meet? The café near our Dombivli station.”-Rishi.
“Okay, we will meet. 7 in the evening today. See you.”-Aditi.
“Bye. See you.”-Rishi.
‘What does he want to tell me. Reflecting upon Rishi’s nature, I feel, it must be something serious. But why am I thinking so much about all of this? I don’t know how, but these days, I just can’t take Rishi off my mind. Have I started liking him? Maybe even he likes me. Will he say the same today?’-Aditi was playing with her thoughts.
In the evening, she reached the café where they were supposed to meet.
“Hey Rishi.”-Aditi waved at him.
“Oh goodness! Since when are you waiting?”-Aditi reached the table where Rishi was waiting.
“No, nothing like that. It’s just been 5 minutes or so. What will you like to have?”-Rishi offered her the menu card.
“What have you ordered for yourselves?”-Aditi.
“Not yet. We will order together.”-Rishi
They ordered coffee and some snacks.
“So, Rishi. What is it? You wanted to tell me something important right?”-Aditi was the first to initiate.
“Umm, Aditi. Can I tell you after we receive the order? I mean, you must be hungry after an entire long work day.”
Rishi was now absolutely nervous. He was biting his nails, wiping his face with his hanky constantly. He even drank a lot of water, he emptied even Aditi’s glass. Aditi could sense his nervousness. She herself was getting conscious now.
‘How do I say it. Will she react as per my expectations?’-Rishi.
‘Is it the same? Is he going to tell me what I had thought? Why is he taking so long?’-Aditi started fidgeting now.
“Sir, your order.”-waiter.
“Thank you.”-Rishi glanced at him.
They started having their food.
“Rishi, even I wanted to tell you something.”-Aditi was nervously looking at him.
“Yes, Aditi. Okay, then you tell first.”-Rishi.
“No, you first.”
“You speak first Aditi.”-Rishi was getting impatient.
“No Rishi, you begin.”
This continued for a while.
“I like you.”-they exclaimed together. Both were looking at each other in shock, disbelief, and surprise. Now, they started laughing together. It was a laughter of happiness and relief. Such an important message was conveyed almost in a brief matter of time.
“It’s good that we wanted to tell each other the same thing.”-Aditi.
“So, will you marry me, Miss. Aditi Joshi?”-Rishi.
“My answer is yes, Mr. Rishi Malhotra.”-Aditi.
“Wow! Today we are sharing one of the happiest days of our lives. Let’s go for a movie.”-Rishi.
“No, not today Rishi. I have an important conference call. How about tomorrow?”-Aditi.
“Okay ma’am, as you say. I am completely obedient, you know.”-Rishi was smiling mischievously.
“Stop being filmy Rishi. Chalo, let’s leave now. My mom will be worrying.”-Aditi nearly dragged him out of the café.
“We need to speak to our parents as well.”-Rishi.
“They will first get a cultural shock. We are thinking of uniting a Marathi and a Punjabi family.”-Aditi.
Their chat continued for a while until Aditi’s mom called her. They bid each other goodbye and parted waiting eagerly for a meeting tomorrow. Only if they knew what was to occur.
Rishi called Aditi at 2 in the night.
“Rishi, it is 2 am. What happened? You scared me.”-Aditi said in a sleepy voice.
“Nothing Aditi. I wanted to speak to you. And I called.”-Rishi.
They chatted for nearly two hours till the time Aditi had passed out.
Rishi hung up.
‘Seems our sleepyhead has slept now.’-Rishi smilingly said to himself.
In the morning, Aditi called Rishi, ”Rishi, I have to report to our Vashi branch today. I won’t be able to come.”
“Okay dear. Travel safe. You will be missed.”-Rishi assured her.
“See you.”-Aditi hung up.
Aditi was done with her work till the afternoon. She came near the reception where the TV set was on. Everyone was watching the news today and having a discussion. Even she started looking at the TV.
‘CSMT station has seen one of the worst terrorist attacks ever. The Kalyan-CSMT train was a victim of bomb attacks. There has also been severe firing in the railway station since 9:30. The terrorists have now been killed. The damage to the station caused by the bomb blast and the firing in immense. Around 250 casualties have been estimated and near about 500 people are seriously injured………’
Aditi was unable to hear the next words. The surroundings got fainter and dimmer, all the noise seemed to cease and she fainted.
After a while, she regained consciousness.
“What happened Aditi? Are you alright?”-one of her colleagues asked.
“Rishi…. Where is my phone. I need to call him now.”-she started panicking.
One of her colleagues handed her the phone. She dialed Rishi’s number.
No response. She tried again. Still no response.
“Maybe my phone is not in range. Mira, may I please use your phone?”-Aditi asked her colleague Mira.
“Sure, Aditi. Here, take this.”-Mira
“Thank you so much.”-Aditi said with a tearful face.
She dialed Rishi’s number but again in vain. Still, there was no response.
Aditi frantically tried calling Rishi’s number all the time but to no avail. She left the Vashi office early today since the office staff suggested her doing so and even she wanted to do so as she was really concerned about Rishi.
‘I will go to his home once I reach Dombivli. Maybe his phone battery is dead. I know my Rishi will be alright.’-she was assuring herself.
Instead of going home, she first went to Rishi’s building. She would not be relaxed today without seeing him.
“On which floor does Rishi Malhotra live?”-Aditi asked the building watchman.
“The second floor”-he answered with a strange look on his face.
Aditi almost ran on the stairs up to the second floor. She saw a crowd assembled there. She made her way through the crowd.
“Does Rishi live here?”-she asked a lady.
“He used to live.”-came the reply.
“What do you mean by this?”-Aditi angrily asked.
She entered the home only to see a heavily injured motionless Rishi lying on the floor. She was not even able to recognize his face.
“Rishi…..”, Aditi gave a loud cry. She sat near the corpse unable to react. Rishi’s parents were sitting nearby crying. She saw them and started crying silently. Her face was full of hot streaks flowing from her red eyes.
She sat looking towards Rishi. The talkative, humorous but at the same time sincere, dedicated, honest Rishi, her Rishi was now no more. Their dreams to spend their lives together had been shattered. The man she dearly loved was now nowhere to be seen around. All that could be seen was tears, loud cries, fear, his corpse and his memories in her thoughts.
That night Aditi was all alone in her room. She was aimlessly looking at the sky hoping to see her Rishi somewhere. Tears welled up in her eyes.
‘Rishi, why did you leave me? I want to be with you.’-Aditi was having all empty thoughts in her mind. She tried consoling herself in all possible ways.
‘Maybe Rishi, we were meant to make some really good memories and nothing more. I will miss you’-she said to herself, in a way as if she were speaking with Rishi.
He will be missed. The stars shone brighter in the sky. Aditi slept near the window today her face directed towards the sky, a quaint mixture of a faint smile and tearful, stressed look on her face. And, Rishi was gone. He had traveled his last journey without Aditi.