At the wedding, while everybody was on the dance floor, I sat with my drink at one of the tables in the lawn area. The DJ was playing some rocking numbers and everybody was grooving to his beats. Geet came and asked me to join them for dance.
“You go, I’ll join later.” I said as I took a sip of my drink.
“Don’t be so tensed. We all know it’s a yes.” She tried to ease my nervousness as she sat beside me.
“You never know with Aisha. I don’t know what’s going on in her mind. And you know she has her apprehensions, considering my industry and work.”
“Don’t worry, she knows you also very well. In fact, we all know you. And if she still doesn’t agree, then as we say in Punjab, ‘chak leyange’ (we’ll kidnap her)” She said and we both laughed.
As we were talking, Nikita made a grand entry, which was no less than Sumit’s resplendent one. All of us went on stage and stood besides Sumit and Nikita for jaimala. As Nikita was about to put the garland around Sumit’s neck, all of us carried Sumit on our shoulders. Aisha whispered something in Nikita’s ear and after waiting for some time for Sumit to get down, she warned him, “Are you coming down or should I look for someone else?” She deliberately looked around. Hearing this, Sumit became so restless, that he jumped down in haste, as Nikita put the garland around his neck and everybody along with Nikita, started laughing and hooting. Sumit too put the garland around her neck as everybody clapped and cheered for them.
A few minutes later, I saw Aisha and Geet coming towards the bar. As Geet ordered vodka for herself and soft drink for Aisha, I saw Aisha looking at the tequila shots being served.
“You want to try?” I asked as I knew Aisha had some fascination for it. “Should I order for you guys?” I asked both of them. Geet nodded but Aisha was little hesitant.
“What if I get sloshed?” She asked.
“A couple of shots are not going to harm. And even if it does, I’ll take care of that, don’t worry.”
“Are you sure?” She got excited like a child. I nodded and ordered two shots for them. As she held the shot in her hand, she looked at me and I nodded her to go ahead. After one shot, Geet ordered one more for herself, while Aisha was still recovering from the first one shaking her head.
“What the f*@# is this? How do you guys have it?” She started blabbering making a face, as Geet and I laughed.
“Have one more, it’ll taste better,” I suggested. She didn’t quite like it but wanted to give it another try. After the second one, she still felt the same, so ordered a soft drink instead.
Geet finished another shot and went on the dance floor while we both sat comfortably at the high chair lying next to the bar counter. I ordered a drink for myself when she asked,
“Can I have one more?” she looked at the tequila shot.
“You already had two Aisha. It’s enough for today. You won’t be able to handle it.”
“Please, please Karan, just one more.” she requested.
“No Aisha, You’ll lose control and………” I took a pause, as she looked at me, “we need to talk also.”
“Karan, we’ll talk tomorrow, pucca” I looked at her in anger, as she smiled innocently. “Let me have one more, please Karan.” She pleaded like a child.
“I knew this was coming.” I said giving her a ‘know it all’ look. Her eyes held a request I couldn’t refuse. “Aisha……” I started to speak, but then gave up. “Okay fine. But it’s going to be tomorrow for sure. And you’ll get only one more drink. Not more than that.”
“Done” she gave thumbs up.
I knew she will not be able to handle it, but couldn’t refuse her. She gulped down one more shot and I turned towards the attendant standing nearby and asked him to serve some snacks so that she isn’t completely out of it. As I turned towards her, I saw her having one more shot and another was lying in front of her.
“Are you mad? How many drinks you’ve had?”
“I had only one more. But it hasn’t hit me. Why? What’s the fun if I don’t feel the buzz?” She said in a complaining manner, and was about to have the shot lying in front of her.
“Stop it Aisha.” I said in a firm voice. “Eat something or else it will hit you very badly.” She had little bit of chicken crisps and, in between kept an eye on me when I would look away. Oblivious to her mischief, I was looking at the dance floor where all the couples were busy dancing to romantic songs. She hurriedly emptied the glass, lying in front of her. When I turned, she tried to suppress a smile and looked away, pretending as if nothing happened. Suddenly I looked at the empty glass and understood what has happened.
“Aisha, you have gone mad. Let’s go from here.” I chided and held her hand as she got off the high chair. I instructed the bar tender to not offer her any more drinks and pulled her from there.
Harleen came and pulled us to the dance floor, as we all danced together. And as expected, she danced like a house on fire. In fact, when she was gulping down those tequila shots, I wondered that she goes mad dancing, when not drunk. And, what is she going to do now. And how am I going to handle her after so many drinks.
After sometime, we all headed towards the hall for dinner along with Sumit and Nikita. And it was a task to get the girls off the dance floor. By this time, the tequila shots had started to have its effect on Aisha, as she sang and laughed loud. I was really worried now.
“I think we shouldn’t take her inside.” I said to Harleen. “Let’s sit here with Aisha. I don’t think it would be appropriate to take her inside as Sumit and Nikita’s parents and family members would be there.”
“Yeah right” She said. As the attendant served us dinner, she tried, but was obviously not able to eat properly. So Harleen helped her, in fact she was feeding her like a baby. As Aisha wasn’t eating much so I asked Harleen to go inside and have dinner while I sat outside with Aisha. By the time I finished my dinner, she was completely uncontrollable. She sat on the table, asked the waiter to get another shot for her, played with her dupatta, put it around my neck and god knows what not. I tried to put it back but she was not ready to listen.
Finally after trying hard for half an hour, I decided that it was no longer feasible to keep her there, so asked Dilip to bring the car at the exit gate.
I put my arm around her shoulder, to help her get up as she was not able to stand properly. As we walked a few steps, she suddenly got onto chair and climbed up on an empty table and started singing chhaiyya chhaiyya, and danced on top of it. People sitting on the tables around, which mostly consisted of cousins of Sumit and Nikita, and elderly men enjoying their drinks, all turned towards her. While the youngsters were quite amused, the elders looked at her in bewilderment. I dragged her down only to catch hold of her as she was about to go inside the hall. I pulled her back and felt it was better to carry her to the car.
Carrying her was even tough. She pulled and punched my cheeks continuously and sang loudly. Everybody looked at her in amusement and it was impossible to keep her silent. I reached the exit, where Dilip stood with my car. He opened the door and I made her sit on the passenger seat. As I came towards the driving seat, I removed my suit jacket and hung it at the back of my seat, rolled my sleeves and sat on the driving seat. She was still singing, and played with her hair. I called up Manish to inform him about the whole situation.
“Where are you? I’ll come there.” He asked.
“No, keep talking on phone. I am about to leave. It was impossible to control her, so I thought I’d better take her home. I don’t think we should spoil it for everybody. You guys stay there and tell the gang after the dinner that we have left. I’ll get her back in the morning.”
“Okay cool. Just message me, once you reach home.” he said and we both hung up.
“Where are we going?” she asked as I started driving and told her that we are going home. “But why so early? I want to go back and enjoy the wedding.”
“You are sloshed Aisha, that’s why.”
“But everybody’s there. I don’t want to go home alone.” She pouted as she spoke like a small child.
“We are going to my place, you won’t be alone.”
“Because you can’t stay alone at your place Ashi.” She kept pressing to go back and I went crazy trying to make her understand that we can’t.
“Okay then, you put it around your neck.” She pointed towards the dupatta in her hand.
“No Aisha” I tried to put it back on her, but she was not ready to listen, and kept it on my shoulder.
“I won’t go with you then.” she said childishly and I couldn’t help but pat my forehead in helplessness.
“God! Why did I offer her that drink.” I murmured. I shook my head and knew I had no option but to adhere to what she says, so that she sits quietly, for sometime at least. But soon I was at the receiving end of some more tantrums from her. As we reached at the entrance of my building, I tried to wrap the dupatta around her but she refused,
“No you keep it.”
“Aisha….” I tried to speak but she was in no mood to listen.
“Come on Aisha, don’t be such a kiddo.” She started crying like a child and I knew there was no point arguing any further, so I gave up. I asked Dilip to park the car and leave, and went towards the elevator holding her hand. As we reached my floor, she again ran inside the elevator and started pressing all the buttons. I hurriedly ran towards her and pulled her back. She almost fell on me with a loud laugh. I rang the door bell as Sanju, my house help opened the door and I quickly took her inside before somebody killed us for disturbing their sleep at this time. I took her to the bedroom to put her to sleep.
“I am hungry.” She said as she had not eaten properly at the wedding.
“What do you want to have? Maggi?”
“Yeah, Okay.” She said.
I instructed Sanju to make maggi and within few minutes, he kept the bowl on the dining table and informed me. I took her to the dining table and kept the bowl in front of her. She started to pick it with her hands, so I took the fork from her hand and fed her. But she didn’t have much of it and went towards the balcony of my bedroom. I tried to stop her, “Aisha wait, you haven’t eaten properly…..” but she didn’t listen. I followed her and saw she was about to climb on the front glass railing. I rushed towards her and pulled her back,
“Have you gone mad, what were you doing? You could have fallen, had I not pulled you back.” I shouted as I was still catching up on my breath that had almost stopped, watching her do that stunt.
“Why are you shouting?” She looked irritated by the pitch of my voice. “I am not going to die…..” she paused for a second and then again spoke, “and I know you’ll always be there to hold me.”
She looked deep into my eyes as I too looked at her, a little surprised. She started giggling a few moments later. “See my dialogue delivery is better than yours.” I shook my head and smiled as I took her inside. She sat on the bed and I turned towards my wardrobe to get the change.
“Don’t go Karan.” she said.
“It’s late Aisha, you should sleep now.” I made her lie on the bed, and covered her with the comforter. “I am in the living room, outside, if you need anything, just call me, okay.” I had decided to sleep on the couch in living room, because the other bedroom was a little away from my room and I would not be able to hear her, in case, she calls out. As I was about to go, she held my hand and I turned to look at her,
“Please don’t go Karan. Stay here with me.”
“I am here only Aisha.”
“Don’t leave me.” I looked at her a little puzzled. I couldn’t understand whether it was a simple request or had something more to it.
“Okay, I’ll be here. You go to sleep.” I said but she clasped my hand tightly.
“No you promise me?” she looked anxious.
“Yes Ashi….” I gave her an assurance and again tried to move.
“Promise me, that you’ll always be with me and never ever leave me.” I was staggered by this request of hers and kept looking at her for few seconds. She too looked into my eyes waiting for an assurance and I could see desperation in her eyes as though her life depended on my answer.
I sat beside her and took her face in my hands, “I will always be with you, no matter what……. And I am not going to leave you, ever. Not even if you ask me to.” We both kept looking into each other’s eyes for some time, as she slowly leaned forward. I couldn’t understand if her body was taking over her senses or she just leaned for a casual hug. I moved my face back a little, to keep up the distance between us and looked away so that I don’t give in. She stopped for a second as I turned my gaze towards her. She smiled and all of a sudden collapsed in my arms. Before I could understand anything, she had slipped into sleep. I took a deep breath and lay her on bed, and covered her properly. I quickly changed and was about to go towards the living room but then turned and went on the other side of the bed.
I woke up in the morning and looked at the wall clock; it was 9 am. I checked if she was okay and went out of the room. I instructed Sanju to make coffee and as soon as the coffee was ready, I came back to my room with two mugs for both of us. I was about to wake her up, but stopped for a moment as I thought of something in my head and smiled impishly.
“Good morning Aisha.” She didn’t respond. “Aisha wake up, it’s already 9:30” She opened her eyes slowly and smiled at me. But a few moments later the smile on her lips faded as she got up and looked around, a little disoriented but soon realized that she was in my bedroom. She looked little uncomfortable as her eyes fell on her earrings and bangles that lay on the side table.
“How did I come here?” her eyes stopped at my clothes which were lying on the bed as I had forgotten to pick them up after I changed. ‘My usual carelessness’.
“In my arms.” I smiled and went closer, as I asked, “How are you feeling?” But she ignored my question and again asked,
“But why here? And where are others?” She looked nervous and moved back a little.
“They are at Manish’s place.” I held her hand and again tried to move closer. But she pulled her hand back as she felt awkward and kept it on my shoulder to stop me. “What happened? After last night, I didn’t expect you to be so uncomfortable with me.” She looked perplexed as I asked.
“What do you mean ‘after last night’? What happened last night?” She looked more worried.
“You don’t remember anything?”
“No, what happened?” She looked restless now.
“Relax Aisha. You were completely sloshed and it just happened. And there’s nothing, that shouldn’t have happened. In fact, just see you had to give me the answer today, and now it’s not even required. You’ve already made everything clear.” The expressions on her face were getting intense.
“What rubbish. Why did you do this?”
“YOU did it Aisha. I tried to stop you, but you would just not listen.” She clinched the comforter in her hands as the guilt surrounded her face. She couldn’t bring herself to look at me.
On the other hand, I continued with my performance, “How can you blame me for this?” She briefly looked at me, and then again looked down, as I continued, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you reacting like……………” I looked at her and stopped mid way. She was trying hard to suppress a chuckle but as she noticed that I was looking at her, she couldn’t hold it any longer and laughed a loud.
“Sorry, I couldn’t continue further.”
“What?” I tried to hide the smile. “I am serious.”
“Such a typical Bollywood prank Mr. Kapoor. How could you even think I’d believe this?” She said as she punched my arm playfully.
“Toh, what else do you expect from a Bollywood actor.” I laughed. “Aisi situation mein hero yahi bolta hai na” She shook her head as she heard that line, for the umpteenth time, and a few moments later both of us started laughing.
After breakfast, I dropped her to Manish’s place, and headed straight to the gym, after which I had to head for my shoot as I was already late.
The next few hours passed by in a jiffy as I was completely immersed in the shoot. It was all the more difficult since playing a negative character was a newer arena. It took me more time than usual to get into the skin of the character, and required higher levels of concentration. Though Aisha’s thoughts crept up every now and then, and every time it did, I shook my head to remind myself to focus on work. I couldn’t afford to let my work be affected by that. It was already 4:30 pm when I took a break for lunch. As I sat down, I took out the phone from my pocket and couldn’t resist sending her a message,
“What are you up to? Don’t try to find any more excuses….”
“What? How do you know?” she replied with a tongue stuck out emoji.
“Don’t even think of doing that. I am warning you, I am not going to wait any more.”
“I know…..” even though it was a message, I could still imagine the seriousness on her face as she wrote that.
“Chal see you in the evening.”
At the reception, my eyes were glued at her. Seeing her in a saree for the first time, I was spellbound. She was in a sapphire blue saree, hair perfectly kept sideways and her big expressive eyes highlighted with a nice stroke of liner. And just a touch of light pink on lips. To me, she looked like the most beautiful girl in the world, though she didn’t look comfortable, and had worn the saree only because of Harleen, Kirti and Geet’s insistence. She sat with our gang on one of the tables in the lawn and in between the chats, would look at me as she was well aware of my gaze on her, but avoided eye contact as always.
It had been the same since past two years. She has avoided answering or discussing anything about the feelings that we have for each other. Though I never understood her reason, but didn’t press her because I didn’t want to push her into anything until she felt comfortable talking about it. But then two years was a bit too much to wait, especially when you were sure about the other person’s feelings.
I went to the table where all of them were, and sat on a chair beside her, “Can we talk.”
And as expected she looked at me with the same familiar impish smile and said, “Karan, we’ll talk some other day na, please. It’s so much fun here with everyone.” I gave her a death stare and was about to say something, when she noticed my expressions, “Okay, okay, fine. We’ll talk in some time.” She said.
“Aisha, don’t do this to me.”
“Karan yaar………” she started to speak but then gave up realizing there was no way out now.
“Let’s go, or I’ll go on stage and propose in front of everybody.” She very well knew I would do that, so helplessly followed me. As we walked towards another table, Manish and Harleen came and pulled us to the dance floor for yet another performance on ‘dilli vali girlfriend’ which had become a ritual of sorts for us to dance on at any party. I was really annoyed; in fact annoyed was an understatement. I was dying to talk to her, but knew that I’ll have to wait for some more time now.
We both started dancing as all others joined and danced with us, but my restlessness grew with each passing second. As I lifted her in my arms towards the concluding line, our signature step, there was an unusual awkwardness between us. Normally I enjoy dancing with all of them and we dance like a mad house, but today was different. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of the dance floor.
As the DJ changed the song to a romantic number for the newly married Sumit and Nikita, everybody got busy dancing with their partners. I held her hand and took her off the dance floor, towards a table which was at the far corner, away from the hustle bustle. We both sat on adjacent chairs, facing each other. My elbow rested comfortably on table and palm on my temple. I was looking at her and could see the discomfort in her eyes. I knew she wanted to run away from there at that very moment.
“So?” I looked into her eyes and asked. I was nervous, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop the smile that danced on my lips, knowing how close I was to the moment when she would be part of my universe forever.
“Let’s not spoil this Karan. We have such a beautiful friendship and I don’t want to lose you as a friend and……..” She looked at me, as I interrupted her in between,
“Come on Aisha. I’ve already heard these lines so many times.”
“Acha sun na, what is your plan for ……….” she made a failed attempt trying to deviate from the discussion, but I only wanted to hear a ‘Yes’ for an answer and nothing else, so didn’t let her finish.
“Yes or yes forever.” I smiled impishly.
“Stop it yaar” the expressions on her face oscillated between a smile that turned her face pink and a strange sadness as though she was about to lose her most prized possession.
“No, I won’t. Not before I get my answer.” I made it clear to her. She again tried to move away from the topic but I was dead set that I won’t leave it mid way. “I would listen to only a ‘Yes’ from you, and nothing else. We both know deep within your heart, it had always been a yes, but I don’t understand this reluctance to admit.” She was silent.
“By the way, silence is considered as a yes.” I said playfully.
“Karan, why can’t we leave this discussion and go, have fun with others?”
“Because I don’t want to wait anymore. Why are you so scared to admit it? What is stopping you?” She took a deep sigh and looked away, as she sat there helplessly, not knowing how to be out of the situation.
“Come on Aisha, just say it. I need an answer. I can’t wait my whole life. I am losing my patience now. I don’t have any more energy for this. Please bol.” She turned her gaze towards me and took a deep breath,
“NO…………” I looked at her in disbelief. She finally answered, but not what her heart screamed from within and definitely not what I’d waited to hear.