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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Gone Girl. (Book Review #4)




          A couple of years ago, I read in the newspaper that 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn is among the top 5 of the year. I had been meaning to read it ever since. Finally, I have read it and I'm not so pleased. Maybe I had high hopes from it because it is many people's favourite novel. To begin with, I liked the mysterious title which is simple and effective.

Characters:

          The story revolves around a married couple who are in an unsuccessful marriage. The wife, Amy Elliot Dunne, is brilliant, vicious and crazy. The husband, Nick Dunne, is smart, laid-back and deals-with-everything-at-a-time kind of a person. Their characters are brought out really well. Especially the character of Amy is almost perfect. She does the things she wants. She is manipulative and also a clever planner. The character of Nick is portrayed wisely. Being the relaxed person he is, the strike of clues and Amy's little jokes, hits him subsequently. Nick's twin sister Margo is a typical supporting sister who hates Amy. The rest of the people like Desi Collings, Boney, Gilpin, their parents are properly structured and placed. For example, the feelings of Amy's parents are very natural. The detective is also very cautious and informal.
  
Story line:

          The first part; 'Boy Loses Girl' is symbolised in two ways. First is the husband's story of the present situation. Second is the wife's story about the past. I'm usually a fast reader but I found very little interest in the first 200 pages. That's right. Not 20, but 200! It constituted only the normal events of the day. The love story and marriage life could have been better. It wasn't necessary to put every sad incident to extend the story. The investigation and treasure hunt could have been more exciting. I agree that all detectives aren't Sherlock Holmes but the fact that it took them so many pages to arrest Nick was quite dull. I was hoping for the treasure hunt to be more than 4 clues. They were very apt, I agree. The story got more interesting with the entry of Andie. The end of the first part was okay but I had imagined Amy's dead body in the woodshed. Alas! It wouldn't have been possible because that would've ended the story right there.
          The second part; 'Boy Meets Girl' was the best part of the story. It had the maximum of mystery than the other parts. In this, Amy finally begins to tell her story from the day of her disappearance. Here, they catch up on the same time frame after all. In this part, the real Amy is shown who is a lady of vengeance and excellence. She narrates her entire plan which is absolutely genious. The way she plans for a year shows how much she can be patient to commit a perfect crime to seek revenge. I found her story to be one of misery and challenge. Misery, because she was not living her life fully. Her life's goal was only to watch her husband suffer. Challenge, because she was not a simple person. For her, everything and everyone was a competition. Her aim was brought out to be so sure and crystal clear. And, that's why it made no sense when she melted over Nick's television speech. That wasn't supposed to happen. She was intelligent to know better and yet her weak heart somehow won over her strong mind. Concerning her little incident at her hideout, that wasn't expected. Sure, it was necessary to put something there. But a robbery? I thought it would be either that Greta and Jeff recognise her or that they are cops. Also, the further story is very un-appealing to me. But, for Desi to pop in the situation, this robbery was essential. Once Desi entered, I had a feeling that he's going to be Amy's target. Her plan was good. But not as much as the original one. On the other end, Nick was smart enough to handle things the way he handled them. Tanner's outline was carved up really well.
          The third part; 'Boy Gets Girl Back.' is the end of the story. This was the most weird part wherein there were twists and complications just for the sake of it. It was impossible that a man could live with such a 'psycho bitch' and become the father of their child. The fact that he couldn't get any clues from his geniuos and crazy wife was obvious.


Overall Thoughts:

          If you check out my Goodreads page, you will notice that I've given 2 stars for this novel. I think the story was variations of vagueness and randomness. At the beginning, it felt like the treasure hunt would be the tying bond leading to their happy marriage. In the middle, it felt like it was a master plan if Amy would've killed herself. In the post-middle, it felt like it was unnecessary to even mention Amy's intellect as she loses herself and gets fooled by Nick's fake gestures. In the end, it felt like if this all wouldn't have happened, their lives would've been exactly the same.
          I'm not a famous book reviewer or an all-the-time critique. I've only stated some facts about a novel that I didn't like much. You can read some of my positive book reviews here.I hope I didn't hurt any of the readers' or author's feelings. I'm sure many of you loved this book which made it a bestseller. I hope those of you didn't like it, found my describing satisfactory. What's your opinion on 'Gone Girl'?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Panchgani Journals.

          Today I'm posting a travel entry as a 'Throwback Thursday' post. I went on a short trip to Panchgani which is a hill station in Maharashtra during the first week of May.  Even though there was heat as much as Mumbai, it was fun to visit the place. On the day of sightseeing, I visited five spots, all of which were wonderful. The first spot was 'Sherbaug'. Reaching by 3.15 pm, I spent around an hour over there. I was welcomed by water sprinklers. It was supposed to be a fun thing but it only frustrated tourists as their cameras and other stuff got wet. So, basically a lame idea. The inside was a huge maze-like area. There were trails surrounded by trees. Apart from the fact that it dreaded maintenance, it was quite alright. A touch of nature for the city-crazed people. There were rows of beautiful flowers at the beginning. There was a horror house, a laughing house, a huge water park area and a fossil museum. Here are some snaps from Sherbaug.





          The next spot was 'Sydney Point'. This was an amazing spot from where the view of entire Panchgani could be seen. The landscape was absolutely breath-taking. Unfortunately, there was a huge tower destroying the view which forbid me to take a panorama image.


Left side view.
Right side view.

          'Ghatjai temple', praying destination was my next halt. It was deserted at the time. But, it is packed with devotees during festivals. Thankfully, I enjoyed the little peace and quiet before I headed to 'Parsi Point'. Here, the view was astounding. The place was full of tourists and vendors. There were shoe vendors, ice cream sellers, food outlets and so on. I enjoyed the wonderful breeze for a long time. It was such an amazing place. A place where I could stay to think, meditate, enjoy the scenery and absorb the view in my eyes as much as I could.



          I reached the last spot 'Table Land' by 5.30 pm. This was indeed extravagant. The land spread as far as I could see. I walked around a lot. Stopped sometime to just view the bountiful landscape and ponder over its beauty. The place witnessed people walking, some standing by the edge, some horse-riding, some clicking pictures etc. I didn't go all the way to the end as it was time for sun set. I headed back and luckily got a bench to sit. I clicked a lot of pictures during that solid half hour until 7 pm. I was ready with my camera to witness the perfect sunset but it wasn't quite so. The clouds in between the sun and the mountains made it impossible to click at the perfect timing. However, it was a great setting. In fact, I saw the sun setting on my left and the moon rising on my right. It was glorious to observe such a wonder.

Barren beauty.

Sunset.





A panorama of the place.

          At the end of the day, I was very tired but also elated. This thrilling place with abundant natural beauty made me wonder about the cemented jungle which I love so much. I adore skyscrapers, shopping malls and the electric buzz in the cities. However, the pure, pollution-free and traffic-free Panchgani made me love nature more.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

DIY Bookmarks.

          As mentioned in my summer bucket list, I have done quite a lot of stuff. In this post, I'm going to share some of the Do-It-Yourself Bookmarks I made. As much as I love reading, I love making bookmarks. It's a different matter that I don't need them as I finish reading good books in a day or two. But, it's a fun activity. I enjoyed making these a lot more than I had imagined. All of these are just paper made. Nothing fancy yet nothing ordinary. I believe that when you make things yourself, they are always special.

These are the simple ones I made for the first time. I did not put much effort as it was just the beginning. I used blue, red and white papers paired with some glitter, markers and ribbons.


In these ones, the technique remains the same but the paper is much better. After all, what's better than hearts?


The next ones I made were just something I hadn't planned. I imagined that the effect of colourful hearts on black would give a nice look. Seven different colours looked really nice. You can make such kinds of bookmarks when you have to gift them to someone. The set looks better than a single.


Now, the last type is the ones which everyone loved. I saw them on Pinterest and that was when I got really interested. These are corner bookmarks. You can attach them on the corner end of your page. There is a lot of variety in these. You can make minions, pokemons, devils and actually anything and it will look amazing. The hearts are another type which is really simple to make. These kinds hold really well and I wonder why anyone doesn't sell such bookmarks!


So I made a total of 21 bookmarks. I spent great amount of quality time making these. Now, I find myself gazing at the bookmark rather than the book. And lastly, I forgot to make one that says, "Go away. I'm reading". How do you make bookmarks? Do share! :)




Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Coincidental Love. (Part II)


          I go to him and say, "Hey! Didn't you just get here? Why are you leaving?" He seems angry and bizarre, "I thought you didn't have a boyfriend. You needn't have to lie to me. All you pretty girls are the same, aren't you? I really thought you were my friend!" Oh, so he heard that, "Are you talking about Preet? Did you hear anything?" "I heard enough." His tone his high and he really is angry. I try in my most sweet and flirty voice, "Ohhh. Are you jealous? You really seem to be!" "Why would I be? I am not your boyfriend or lover or secret admirer! You go and have a good time with Preet!" Just as he turns to leave, I hold his hand to stop him, "Preet is my cousin who has a mental condition. He thinks I am his girlfriend. I just go along with it because it makes him happy." His hand is still in mine. He look relieved and says, "Oh. I umm..." "You were jealous mister." He has a little awkward smile. And I am holding some amusement within me. "Well maybe." He is doing his super shy thing now and I blurt out, "Akshat, would you like to go on a date with me?" I cannot believe how I got the courage to ask that question. It came as a shock to the both of us. But right after my question ended, he said, "I would like to go on a date with you." Now, we are at the party smiling at each other like some love struck teenagers.
          Tonight is our first date. The past 2 days went by slower than morning traffic. We chatted a lot, especially during the nights. Those chats were too flirty to put here. But, one can imagine. Anyway, I just couldn't wait for tonight. And, now that it is almost here, I am beyond scared. I'm going through so many feelings at once that I think I am going to explode. I have been on dates before but it was never like this! I hope these feelings just disappear and it works out. I will just be myself. I am wearing a full length purple dress which has white crochet work and a few diamond-like pieces here and there. I have my long straight hair down. I am in my white and silver pumps. My accessories consist of silver bracelet and my silver clutch.  I look really nice but whatever. Since I asked him, I decided on a nice dinner in a posh Italian restaurant. It is going to be perfect. We both meet outside the building. He is here in his car. I offered to drive but he flipped out and insisted on him driving. Men and their dignity! I get in the car. We look at each other and electricity flows between us as our eyes do their little talking and our smiles keep getting wider. He is wearing an impeccable light purple shirt paired with grey corduroy pant. He smells really good too. Such a co-incidence that we are both wearing purple! I will have a long list of coincidences if I start about it. We reach the restaurant. I have been here around 5 times and absolutely love it.
          As we enter, our eyes twinkle reflecting the glossy restaurant interiors. The hall is huge. There are chairs and tables all around the center. There is a little dancing area in the middle circle. The walls are a shade of cream. There are wooden chairs and tables matching the wooden floor. The dancing floor is white and holds a great deal of attraction.  There is a mini bar in one far end corner. At another end, the wall painted in modern art is decorated with frames and carved glass-wood art pieces. Beautiful chandeliers hanging above brighten up the place in a dim lit atmosphere and the soft music gives the place a very romantic feeling. As we approach our reserved place, Akshat pulls up my chair as a gesture of manner. And that makes me feel special. Now, our conversation actually begins. Akshat says, "You look gorgeous, Abhira. Every day you are as splendid but today there's an added charm of beauty." I can't help but smile, "Thank you. You are looking stunning." Suddenly the talkative girl is gone giving the place to a shy and quiet girl. The one which I am getting to know for the first time. He is smiling at me and wouldn't look away. I find myself doing the same to him. Oh my God! Will he stop doing that? I can actually feel myself blush! He says, "So, are we going to order or are we content just by seeing each other?" I blush even more. "Any of the two would work for me. Although, they won't let us stay here for the latter one." We are going through the menu as the waiter approaches. I can hardly concentrate on food at the moment. I will just eat my usual. I say, "I will have cacciatore and lasagna." Akshat says, "I will have the same. And some red wine." I nod a yes. Now the waiter is gone leaving us to our over-joyous selves. He says, "You know, I was surprised when you asked me out. But more I became sure that I wasn't living in some fantasy of mine." "What do you mean?" "I am the kind of guy who isn't looked at twice. And you were the first woman who approached me. Ever since I have known you, I am awed by your intelligence, sense of humour and humble nature. Despite being beautiful, you also have a heart and a brain which most people lack. And when I started to like you, I thought there was no chance you would be interested in a guy like me. So, when you asked me out, I was relieved from that fantasy." "You are one gem of a person. I just don't understand why you always under-estimate yourself and hide yourself behind a mask. And for all that's worth, I like you too. So, there was no question of me not asking you. I never thought you saw me. But, it feels good to know that you did." We are both going for the ultimate honesty then which is surprisingly great. He talks quite a lot now as compared to earlier, which means he must really like me. He says, "So, as a matter of fact, this is my first date. Have I said too much already? I have no idea about the rules. I just believe in honesty, trust and love." And love. My inner self is doing somersaults and I will have an attack if he becomes more romantic. Where was he all these years?  "That's a good policy. I think I will stick with yours." We smile at each other for what feels like a lifetime.
          Wine arrives and we make a toast to 'New Beginnings'. We keep talking. He looks intently when I am talking. He laughs his heart out when I say something funny. He looks at me when I laugh as if he is under a spell. We are enjoying a lot. This is the most relaxed, fun and romantic evening. We just go into a different world after tasting the delicious food. The dessert, Crostata was heavenly. Now is the time when he will be tested. The bill arrives. I take it because it was my idea. He begins, "I am going to pay. So, give it here." I reply, "I asked you out. Hence, I must pay." He comes back, "Look, I respect that you are an independent woman but you are attacking my dignity." I try, "How about we both pay partly?" "I'm not negotiating. Just let me pay, please." "It's either partly or nothing. I am pretty stubborn, you know?" "Oh come on! Fine! Just this time then. Agreed?" "Of course not. But let's settle that way this time." Paying partly, we are about to leave when Akshat says, "Wait. Would you like to dance with me?" I am shocked that he is ready to dance, in front of everyone. But more I am glad. He is doing this to make me happy! "I would love to." We join another couple on the center of the place. I whisper in his ears, "From that first forced dance until this one, I cannot believe how much everything has changed. And I am grateful." "Fate is playing with us and I feel like we are winning." I smile but inside I am a ballerina dancing with extra merriment. Now, we are heading back. He says, "I had a great evening Abhira. I was never this happy. I am glad that you are in my life." "It was a lovely evening because of you. I couldn't possibly be more happy." We walk upstairs in silence and reach my floor. He takes my hand and lands a delicate kiss there. I go ahead and kiss his cheek. We bid goodbye. As I am home, it's 11.15 and all I can think of is him. His expressions. His laughs. His talks. His kind gestures. His walk. His dance. His smile. Every detail of this evening is coming back to me and I feel like I am in love with Akshat!


Six.

          I know that things have gone rather fast. There are things that I don't know about him and him me. But, the feeling I have for him is so new to me. I cannot compare that against anything. And, we have our entire lives to get to know one another. Tonight is our second date. Akshat asked me out this time and I wonder how it will enfold. I am wearing a nice red kurta and leggings. Usually I wouldn't have worn this but he said he liked me better this way. And I like it this way as well. In fact, he said that I look more elegant in a kurta, which is the exact word I had used! There goes another item in the list of co-incidences. So, we are meeting at 6 pm. Since our little story has gone faster than I anticipated, I am feeling very weird. I don't want it to be over but I also don't want it to be a hoax. I trust him but you may never know what guys are hiding. But, I am not going to let the circumstances bother me. This was meant to happen. And I as I see Akshat wearing a red T-shirt, I am surer about our destiny. He asks, "Do you trust me?" "I trust you." "Now, today we are going walking. It's nothing like that hotel, but I'm sure you will like it. Since it is a surprise, I'm going to blindfold you, okay?" "Well, how will I see then if we are walking? What if the people think you are kidnapping me?" We both laugh at that but it was a sincere question. He replies, "Don't worry. It is quite near." "Alright then!" This is bringing back all the negative vibes. I cannot see anything and I have also lost the sense of direction after that one left and one right. He says, "We are almost there. We are now going upstairs in an elevator." The fact that he is providing a commentary makes me feel safer. We have reached now, I think.
          He is slowly removing the blindfold. I notice that we are standing on our building's terrace! What? He notices my confusion and says, "Turn around." As I do, I am overwhelmed by the view. There is the terrific view of the Bandra sea face. There are lady musicians playing music at one side. There is a chef preparing barbecue on another side. There is a comfortable bed and champagne at the end. There are flower vases decorating the place. Thankfully, there are a couple of non-noisy fans too. It's like a little picnic.  As I realize my hands cupped my mouth all this time, I finally manage to say, "This is incredible! I am impressed Mr. Akshat!" He might have felt all those insecure feelings too. That's why he chose our own building's terrace and indulged other people. And I am so beyond words. He says, "Now, let's sit here and enjoy the beautiful sunset." Since our building is 25 floors, the view from here is perfect. We drink champagne while watching the sun set. We are quieter than usual. He finally says, "Are you okay? You haven't said much since we got here." "I am just.. I feel really special. No one has ever done such a lovely thing for me. You are so great to make me feel this way." He takes my hand and says, "I am the happiest now. And you are special. To me you are." I could almost cry. "Now, would you like to eat?" I almost forgot about that part. We eat some herb potato salad, marinated grilled chicken and blueberry pie. He must have got the best chef in the whole world because this food is so appetizing that I could eat it every day. That pie was exquisite! After eating, it's almost 8.30 now. I ask him, "Would you like to dance?" He smiles and we enjoy our third dance together. We are alone now. It's only 9 pm. He says, "Now, the best part of the evening." He takes me to bed. We have our hands entwined. He lies down on his back and asks me to do the same. He says smilingly, "Don't look at me. Look above." He tilts my chin and my eyes envision the beauty of all the stars. I mutter, "Wow! This is so ethereal." "Shhh. Let it sink into you." We both are lost in gazing at the starry night. Right this moment, life is perfect. After a lot of time has passed by, I silently say, "You may have been alone all your life, but you are certainly a romantic at heart. I should thank God for saving you for me." As we are looking at each other, he says, "Maybe he was." Our shoulders are touching each other. Our hands are entwined and soon our lips follow suit. Our first kiss is one of love, passion and wanting. It feels like we were away for a lifetime and now we are one. It feels so meant to be. After our long kiss he says, "I am in love with you, Abhira. Ever since I met you, it's been a bliss. Being with you feels more natural and perfect with every passing day. It feels forever." I'm enthralled by his romance. He is in love with me and I'm so shocked by his directness that I'm stupefied. We are still looking at each other when I finally say, "Akshat, you are the one person with whom I feel like myself. I am under some magic spell when I'm with you. And I love you." With that, our date ends and we head back to our homes. There is the traditional stairwell silence but this time it's good. We keep smiling and our hands never leave the embrace.


Seven.

          After 2 months of being with Akshat, our love has only grown, if that's even possible. We see each other every day. We went on a shopping date yesterday and splurged a lot. I bought him really clever shirts for work. He bought me pretty kurtas and a handbag. My job is going great. The readers love my column; 'Common Man Columnist' and I enjoy every bit of it.  My parents are happy about Akshat. His parents are happy with me. Meera has become a good friend of mine. So in short, everything is perfect. Today, my most awaited article is going to be published. For the first time, I got an entire page in Fashion Classics. I have a day off today so I'm going to adore that article a lot. Then I will start reading 'PS:I Love You'. Akshat gifted me this and has practically forced me to read it. Well, it's 8 am and I have just got the papers. I directly go to the magazine. I scan all the pages twice. To my disbelief, I cannot find my article! What the hell is this! I call my boss, "Hi Fenil. I was wondering why my article was not published in today's magazine?" She replies, "Oh yes. We are extremely sorry. It was brilliant but it was an entire page. And we had to publish Malini's." Malini is the one who is the most famous fashion journalist. Every company wants her. Thus, they keep on publishing her articles every week so she won't leave. I reply, "That is really not fair, you know?" "I know. But you know how it works. Maybe we will publish yours next week!"
         A week goes by. Even today my article is nowhere to be seen. I am fuming with anger. I am with Akshat at his home at the moment. I convey him what had happened. "I am so angry right now. Why does there have to be corruption everywhere? I am sick of these corporate cold wars. I might as well just quit that job and set up my own publishing house. Who do these people think they are?" Akshat as calm as ever says, "Try to relax Abhira." "How can I relax after all this? How can you be so calm?" "Because being short tempered is not going to solve any problems." "Oh just forget it! I am leaving!" "That's what you always do, don't you? Leave?" "What?" "Whenever the situation doesn't go your way, you just pack up and leave. You ran away to Switzerland when you were fired. Over there, you ran away from me because it was impossible of anything happening between us. You keep saying 'whatever' always. You always do this! You always shut off the people in your life whenever you wish!" "Oh please! Don't make this about me running away! If that's what you think about me, then I don't have anything to say to you.  And what about you, huh? You say that I shut people out but you never even let them in! You don't know what intimacy is and if you keep behaving like that, then you will be all alone one day!" I storm out as he says, "You are doing it again." I reach home. I don't understand how he can say such horrendous things about me. Is that what he thinks I am? A quitter? Instead of staying with me and consoling me he decided to pull up a fight? What is his problem? Whatever. No! Not whatever! Ughh!
          It has been a month I haven't talked to Akshat. I thought about what he said, a lot. I even asked my parents. They said the same thing but in a much more caring and understanding manner. My friends also said the same! I don't understand why didn't any of them just tell me earlier. I wouldn't have quit on them. But, after so much of introspection, I have decided to change myself. I mean, whatever Akshat pointed out was not wrong. His way of conveying was but the facts stay as they are. Firstly, I spent a lot of time thinking. Then, I spent a lot of time thinking about what to talk with Akshat. I saw him in the society a couple of days back. And we decided to ignore the existence of the other. Maybe we both are going through the same process, I hope. The last month was drastic. At work, eventually I was told to continue with my usual column rather having some fancy one page article. So, all my efforts on the previous one were a waste. At home, mom and dad keep asking me about Akshat. And there is radio silence from Akshat. Just a month back, I can recall myself being the happiest butterfly on this planet. And now my condition is worse than a moth. I just want this phase to be over. I just want to talk to Akshat and clear the air. What must he be thinking? Will he talk to me? I hope he doesn't hate me. I hope this is not the end of us. These series of unanswerable questions that render me sleepless at nights. Tonight is one such night. My parents are off on a holiday. This home is my moaning place. I'm watching 'Serendipity', eating ice cream and crying over the perfectness of that love story and imperfectness of mine! My phone rings and I cannot even see the name through the tears so I just pick it up trying not to sound like I'm crying. "Hello." "Hi." "Who is this?" "I am Akshat. You deleted my number already?" What? Did he say Akshat? I try to collect myself and say, "Oh hii! No, I didn't see the name actually. How are you?" "I'm not so good. We should meet and talk." "Oh yes. We should." "Can I come over?" "Okay." So, this really happened. I have to clear up. Oh God! My eyes are so messed up. He will know. There goes the bell.
          Here he comes with evident sadness on his face. "I am sorry", we both say at the same time. I begin, "Please let me say first. I thought a lot about what you said. Maybe I'm a runner. That's what I always do. I never realized it until you pointed it out to me. But, I'm going to improve myself. And our fight incidence also had me wondering about us. We have been going really fast in this relationship. We love each other but do we really know each other? I feel like I don't know the real you. I know the things you have told me but we should share that bond where we know what the other is thinking." "I should not have gone off on you like that. I was just pointing out the realm of the whole thing. While doing that I forgot to check in about your feelings. And I agree with what you said. I don't let many people in my life. But when I do, it becomes quite hard for me to share every aspect of my life with them. And that's where I went wrong. I never let you in. You were my first girlfriend. Maybe I was rigid. We don't know each other's deepest souls. We should make an effort to really understand each other on a whole different level." "I know. We could start right now?" "Okay. Well, here's one thing. I am more reserved than you think. And even though it is difficult, I love being alone. It's like my sacred haven." "Okay. That's not bad. Spending time with your own self really lets you understand yourself in a much better way. I have a problem where I run away from things." I give a little smile. He smiles too. We discussed so many relevant matters and shared some of our deepest secrets. It really helped a lot to get a whole new dimension of Akshat. Now, I can surely say that I know him better. Earlier, we only used to talk about the things that are related us. (Like our jobs, news, families etc.) But, today we talked about the things that relate us and the ones within us. (Like our feelings, opinions, thoughts etc.) He says, "I thought girls only watched romantic movies, ate ice cream and cried only in films!" I reply, "Oh shut up! I was crying because of the movie." "Oh yeah? okay.", he says in his funny tone. We watched the whole movie again. We kissed before he left. And now I feel so light and free. He might not be the guy who everyone loves to have around. But he is definitely my guy. And I cannot be more happy.

Eight.

          After 2 years since we first met, we are now going to his beach house. We reach there by 8 pm. We get inside and it's beautiful. It gives me the vintage feeling. Soon, after getting refreshed, we take a walk outside. As soon as I am out facing the ocean, I see every person there I have known in my life. There is my family, friends and cousins. There are at least 100 people here! What is happening? Akshat comes towards me. He looks so handsome in his white shirt and blue jeans. He is having a smile on his face which seems like it will never fade away. He is coming to me. Is he going to do what I think he is going to do? He gets down on one knee. With a serious expression of warmth, love and surety, he asks, "Abhira, would you like to dance with me forever? Will you marry me?" and pulls out a gorgeous ring! There are fireworks above the beach. I am so mesmerized by this whole setting that I feel like a princess. I guess I am and he is my prince. Before his lovely expression chances, I say out loud. "Yes! Akshat, I love you!" He replies, "I love you too, darling." We hug each other for what feels like forever. This is perfect and I am on top of the world!!
          Akshat is now giving a sort of a speech, "Our story is one which is made by destiny. As much as I couldn't believe in it before I met Abhira, I do now. We have been together for quite some time now. Until today our journey was one with many surprises and shocks. Now as I imagine my life ahead, I am not at all scared of married life. As I look further, I'm sure my amazing, humorous and happy Abhira will be there with me throughout my life. Abhira, you're the one person without whom my life is incomplete. I promise to love you and protect you. I promise that I will always love you." My eyes are wet now and I'm hardly able to say anything. I go near him and embrace him in a tight hug awaiting our future together.





[This is my first love story. Thank you all for reading it. A special thank you to my friend, Vaishnavi Upadhyaya, for helping me throughout the process. If it weren't for her technical skills, re-reading of this story many times and valuable suggestions, I'd still be stuck halfway. Also, the credits of the original images goes to their creators.]

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Coincidental Love. (Part I)



One.
  
          "You are fired!", my boss yells in front of the entire staff. I am not going to beg for my job. He is firing me for a mistake as tiny as an ant. Whatever. I have to get the hell out of this office with the little dignity that is left. As I am storming out of the building, I feel a heap of rage building up within me. After serving for 8 years in that company, he just fired me. How is anyone supposed to deal with it? I need to get away. From this office. From home. From everything.
          After 2 days of this humiliating event, I am leaving for a trip to Switzerland. I know, it seems impossible given that I am currently unemployed. But that job gave me quite a lot to save up on. So, the past week in Switzerland was amazing. It felt like the beginning of a fresh start. Well, today is my last day in Switzerland. I hope they have something exciting. Touring and sightseeing was fun, but can't they just keep one disco night? As I pick up the phone, I am partly delighted and partly hopeful. "Hello?" There is a male's voice from the other side. He goes off in his practised speech, "Hello ma'am, I believe today is the last day that your travel group is staying with us?" "Yes, that is correct." "Well, on behalf of our resort, we have a little surprise party for you all tonight." Oh, now we are talking! "It begins at 7 pm. All the other tourists are coming. I hope you will join us too." "Oh, that's very nice of you. I'll surely be there. Thank you." So, finally something real fun!
          I start dressing up. It has to be a seriously cool party given the posh resort. I decide on wearing a cocktail dress paired with a lovely scarf and my favourite black heels. That's quite good. I hope I am not looking fat in this! Anyway, it is too late to change. As soon as I arrive at the open hall, I'm stunned. The place is made up so perfectly. The corner garden is decorated. There are white curtains flowing with the cool breeze. There are flowers and welcome drinks. Very neat. However, there are all strangers here. Is there anyone my age even!? Oh, there is a guy. He is Indian! Maybe I could talk to him. I introduce, "Hey. My name is Abhira, from Mumbai." This guy is either really shy or very preoccupied. After a blank pause, he responds, "Hello. I'm Akshat. Manager of the resort. How may I help you?" Oh well done. You found the manager to chat with. That too, a shy one. A handsome and shy one. "Oh right. So, what is the theme of this party?" "Yes. It is about to start. Why don't you take a seat and enjoy yourself?" Off he goes acting like I am some alien. "Sure." I reply after him. At least he has a good smile. So, Akshat, the manager is conducting this party himself. Interesting. Now he seems much more relaxed. "Hello everyone! Luxury Tower Resort are very pleased to have you all here. This is our way of saying thank you for choosing us. We are going to play a game here. I know. I know. It s not a children's birthday party. But, we have had a good experience with past clients with this game. So, these two guys are going to hand over a number card to you all. There are two of each kind. So, when the music begins, you have to find the person having the same number and begin dancing! Since many of you don't know each other, this is a fun way of connecting with others!" Okay, this is exactly what we did on our graduation farewell. It's so old school! He looks nice up there, capturing the show. We share an almost electric look. And, he looks away. Whatever. "So, D'Souza ma'am what did you get?" A lady in the front row meekly replies, "5" "So, D'Souza ma'am here has a 5. Who's her dance partner?" Let them just get along with this game. I'm not going to dance with some old uncle. Oh, why are they all asking him to be a part of it? He stands tall talking swiftly in his cold and catchy voice, "Okay, okay. I will accompany you all then. I have number 37." To my astonishment, I say a little too fast, "I have a 37 too!" I can bet he is already regretting it. His eyes give everything away. Covering up his act, he begins, "Oh, okay then. Can we have some music?" He can talk to an audience so nicely then why can't he talk to one person face to face! It is usually the other way round. Whatever. I don't think he's going to come here, anyway. Everyone starts dancing. It seems pleasurable. Even those old aunties and uncles are dancing with random people. No way I'm standing here like a fool. Before my brain can react, my feet go over to Akshat and I start talking, "Hi again Akshat! Would you like to dance? Everyone is enjoying themselves!" With an awkward smile, he confesses, "Oh hey. Those aunties just dragged me. I can't really dance in this setting." I was not going to give up. "Well, I bet they have an eye on you. If you leave now, they will just get you back again." Now he is slightly turning to look at them from the corner of his eye. Timing! They see and wave at him. I can hardly control my laugh. "Well, okay then Miss Abhira.", he says, like he is being thrown into prison. Finally, we are dancing! Thank goodness. "So, how do you like working here? Don't you miss home?" God, he has a really good body. He is saying, breaking the chain of my random thoughts, "It's good here. Sure, I miss my family. But have to earn a living." "Oh, of course." I am an independent 29 year old single woman. And being the kind of outgoing and charming person I am, I have to do better! What is it about his gaze that renders me speechless? I try, "You look quite younger to be the head manager at a resort."This is just a branch which makes me only a Branch Manager. And I am actually older than I look." So many words, I am impressed. He still has that sorry face though. Does he hate me for making him dance? Probably, he does. "So, for a beautiful woman like you, isn't it weird to travel alone?" Oh, he can talk then. Did he just say beautiful? Goosebumps. He doesn't hate me then. I reply casually, "Oh, I'm just on a break from my busy life." "Okay. That's a slow song coming up. Do you want to..?" Before he finishes his sentence, I jump in, "Sure. I love to dance actually. I hope you don't have a problem?" If you put people on a spot like that, they can never say no. It's a trick I always use and it works! We begin to dance. At least, he knows where to place his hands while slow dancing. Whatever. This silence is really awkward. Akshat seems like a really introverted person. Or maybe it's the silence that usually follows in such dancing. It's good that we are not talking. It almost feels romantic, this way. He moves so smoothly. He is holding me like a flower. He is just so nice. What am I thinking! There's no chance Abhira! Just, stop over thinking. Collecting my thoughts, I say, "So, that's the end of the song. Thanks for the dance. I have to go now." "Um, bye.", he says. I smile weakly and leave. That was real smooth, you weirdo, I say to myself. I know I shouldn't have left like that but I had no choice. I had to.
          That was a very intimidating evening. Why am I feeling like my heart is on the sleeves for this guy. I don't even know him. This is crazy. He was just so kind and.. Shut up! Stop thinking about it. Such a gentleman. Okay, I'm sleeping. Whatever.

Two.

          Leaving behind that wonderful trip and my dreams about the mysterious guy, Akshat, I am now in Mumbai filling up job applications and hoping someone would take me. To tell you the truth, I write the best fashion analysis. It's not my fault that some celebrities feel shameful. They should actually be shameful wearing those hideous outfits! Anyway, I have applied for three top publishing houses. The interviews are next week which gives me a few days to chill. So, today I am just sitting by the window. As I live on the third floor, I can watch the people downstairs. It's a sunny March day. I love to just observe the kids playing and fighting. The house-wives doing grocery shopping and OH MY GOD. Is that? How can it be? Am I hallucinating? That is Akshat! Live in the flesh! And he looks as good as ever. Could he be visiting someone? But that sounds stupid. Why on earth would he come all the way from Switzerland to visit someone? I have to find out. I am not going to be creepy or desperate. Maybe I will just ask Peter uncle, who is the manager. "Hello Peter uncle! Abhira Khanna speaking. How are you doing? How is auntie?" He replies, "Hello beta, we are doing good. How come you called? Any problems?" Might as well avoid all the small talk then. "Actually yes. I was wondering if any new people are coming in the society? I thought there were no vacant flats?" "Oh yes yes. A family has shifted yesterday. Where the Karandikars stayed?" "Oh okay. I thought I saw some unknown faces today. So, who are these people?" "There's a working man, his mother and sister. Why do you ask anyway?" Oh crap. Think about an answer! "Oh nothing. I was just curious." I cannot ask their names now, at all. He is saying, "Okay. They seem to be well off. The guy is promoted as the head manager in the Luxury Tower Resort!" As those words reached my ears, I was on a whole different planet. This unbelievable news is leaving me in paced heartbeats. This is really weird though. Last week, he was miles away and now he's here, in my building! What is life? I almost forgot I was on the phone. "You there beta?" "Yes. That's good to know." "I have to hang up now. Come at home sometime, okay? Bye." "Sure uncle. Goodbye." Well, now this is something that never usually happens. Last week I met a guy, who was handsome, qualified and almost miles away. And today, he is here. What were the chances of him getting promoted to India, let alone Mumbai? What were the chances of him living in Bandra, let alone in my society! This is all too exciting and also weird for me!
          The past few days were a blaze. Today is Wednesday. I just gave the third interview. All were good but I really hope I get a job in the second one, Mumbai Classics. They have the best fashion journalists working for them. Their Fashion Classics is indeed the best magazine trending these days. Well, right now I am heading five floors above me, where apparently Akshat has moved in. Finally I decided to give them some pancakes as a neighbourly gesture. I ring the bell with more adrenaline than I had when I was dancing with him. Ting-tong. The door is opening as are my hopes. To my dissatisfaction, it is his mother. "Hello! I am Abhira Khanna. I live here on the 3rd floor. I thought I would bring up something for you guys." "Oh hello. My name is Supriya Chawla. Come in, come in. The house is a mess, as you will see." She takes the pancakes and welcomes me inside. "That's natural after all." She seems really sweet and very motherly. She is wearing a cotton punjabi dress. She always has a smile on her face. I begin, "So, where are you from? Who all are there in your family?" She speaks, "I am only a house-wife. My husband works in Chennai which is where I lived with Meera, my daughter. My son, Akshat..." My heart skips a beat as I finally hear his name. I may be reacting too much but whatever."
"...just got promoted as the head manager at Luxury Tower Resort. I am joining him for a few months until he settles. Then I will be back and forth from here and Chennai. My daughter Meera is a graduate. She will start working now. And, tell me about you!" "I am currently searching for a job. I am a fashion analyst. I used to work for Indian Publishers. I live here with my parents, Charu and Hemant. My mother works in the bank down the corner and my father is a stock broker." "That's impressive. I will surely ask you before dressing up for events." We share a laugh. It's fun getting to know her and everything but I would rather if it was Akshat. "So, where are your children?” I ask suddenly. "You just missed Akshat actually. He will be back soon though. Meera is also out." "Okay, it was really nice meeting you. I hope you like the pancakes. And do visit us. I will get going now." "Okay dear. Thanks for stopping by." So apart from the fact that it's confirmed it's him, there was no use going. As I climb down the stairs, I almost bump into a man. It's Akshat! Our stunned faces are too revealing. The look on his face is so turbulent. His face shows signs of surprise, fear and even happiness. He starts talking, "Oh my God. Abhira, right? This is such a co-incidence. What are you doing here?" I smile and reply, "Well, I live here. How about yourself?" We shake hands. A firm handshake. That's a good sign. "I just shifted here last week. It's really good to see you again. Who would have thought?" He seems like a different person altogether with the talking and all that extra hand gestures. "I know. Well, I just met your sweet mother. Gave some pancakes." "Oh thanks. I have to go now but we will meet soon? Bye." "Sure. Goodbye." He was actually happy to see me. I wonder what he feels about this whole situation. As I reach home, I casually check my laptop. There is an e-mail from Mumbai Classics. "Yes! I got it." My mom comes in, "What's the matter?" "Mom! I got the job I wanted! This is amazing!" "Congratulations darling. I knew you would get it." The day just got so much better.

Three.

          Today is the first day of my job and I'm thrilled. I'm wearing the perfect work outfit. A suit and trousers with my formal heels. For a fashion analyst, dressing up is more important than for others. If there's even a tiny f aux pas, then you're out. So far my day was good. My boss, Ms. Fenil introduced me to my work and also to the other members. Right now I'm working on this article for how can common man dress up in monsoons. I finally feel like I belong here. By the way, I didn't see Akshat since our last staircase meeting which lasted for 2 minutes. There's a function in the society today so I'm hoping against hope that I'll see him. For this function, I'm wearing a light blue kurta with leggings and long earrings. I always prefer wearing kurtas to T-shirts. It's just more elegant. Anyway, Akshat is here. And he is coming straight towards me! He begins, "Hi Abhira. How are you doing? I really apologise for my behaviour at the resort. I just organise such events. That was the first one I actually had to become a part of. I know I acted weirdly. Firstly, I'm an introvert. Secondly, I got the chance to dance with a beautiful lady like you. So, I was befuddled." He's talking and talking which is so good. I say, "I suppose that's alright. I'll forgive you only if you dance with me again tonight." Now his expression is more tensed. I start laughing, "Relax Akshat. I'm only joking!" He is such an innocent fellow. "You got me there. So you're my first friend here. I don't know anyone except Mr. Peter." "We're friends then? Good to know. These people are really friendly once you get to know them. Of course, not all of them though. How about I introduce you to some of my childhood friends?" "Okay. Maybe after sometime." "You are one mysterious person. Let's go!" I take him to meet my five pals. He seemed really uncomfortable but they didn't notice it, I hope. After that little talk, we were on our own. He said, "I'm glad you came to my resort and I'm glad I found you here again." My heart just melted right there. Once he gets comfortable around people, then he opens up. He's like a treasure. Mysterious from the outside. Worthy from the inside. The evening was quite fun. Now I know 5 more things about him:
1. His age is 32.
2. He is single.
3. His favourite book is 'PS: I Love You'.
4. He is extremely hot.
5. He is my friend.
I thought he was like 28 or 29. He definitely looks younger. And I also knew he was single because he had no wedding ring and his mother didn't mention it either. I'm just saying.
          Now-a-days, we text all the time. He is quite great at it actually. In the past month we have talked about almost everything. The important stuff as well as random rants. We also had one of those chats where we kept asking "why?" to everything. Now, I'm going for the real talk.

Me: So, don't you have a girlfriend?
Akshat: No. I don't. Do you have a boyfriend?
Me: I don't either.
Akshat: You don't have to lie just to make me feel better.
Me: I really don't have a boyfriend.
Akshat: Oh. It's totally difficult to believe that.
Me: Why so?
Akshat: Okay, if you must know. You're the most beautiful, immaculate and ambitious woman I've ever met. You have a ravishing personality. Your thoughts are vibrant and refreshing. There's no way any men aren't interested in such an astounding person.

(I. Am. In. The. Ninth. Heaven.
Do men even say such wonderful things these days? I am absolutely stunned by how many layers Akshat has.)

Me: Thank you for saying all those kind words but that doesn't change the fact that I'm still single. As we are on the topic, you are also a handsome man. Your talks are deep and insightful. It's like I'm talking to a 50 year old mature person. Why isn't anyone with you?
Akshat: Because I'm not handsome. I'm shy. You know what? I have never had a girlfriend! That's how lonely and secluded person I am.
Me: Now you're joking. I cannot believe that.
Akshat: Ha Ha. You can laugh. It's okay. Another failure with women.
Me: Don't be like that. Anyone would be lucky to have you.
Akshat: Thanks. I have to sleep now. I'm glad you're there for me. And know that I'll always be there for you.
Me: You're the most amazing friend, Akshat. Good night.

Four.

         Today is Sunday. I am trying to write some more articles before they are allocated to me. Door bell rings. Who could possibly be there at 4 pm on a Sunday afternoon! I open the door and there is him, Akshat. He looks so sexy when he wears casuals. I let him in. This is actually the first time he has come home. I introduce him to my parents. After the usual conversation of getting to know each other, he is now talking to me. "Hey, I was wondering if you are free." Is he going to ask me out? I cannot stop.. "Actually I need a favor for my sister.." Oh. So not a date. "Sure. How can I help?" He is saying, "She has this big party tonight with her office people and she needs the perfect outfit. So you were the first person that came to my mind. There's hardly any time to go shopping. Maybe you can help her someway? Can you come home now?" "Well, okay." As we are climbing up the stairs, we hardly talk. This stairwell silence is so funny at times. "Hey Meera! Congratulations on your job! Accountancy must be really your field then! Let's get started! Can you show me your wardrobe if that's okay? Maybe I can come up with something." "Thanks a lot for helping out. Sure. You do whatever you want. There's nothing party-like in there so it's all up to you." I can see she is hoping a lot from me and it really feels good. I take out a black chiffon top with a beaded collar. Then there is a nice white skirt she has. So, I ask her to put that on. Then, I quickly get the sparkly silver belt of mine to pair it up with the outfit. I ask her to wear the silver jacket which is quite the designer. For footwear, I recommend her the red pumps. After having the outfit sorted, I apply her some make-up. Now, she is ready. "This is fantastic, Abhira. Thanks so much!! I owe you one." I can feel her happiness glow from her face. She is a really pretty girl and now she looks like a classy woman. "Not a problem darling. Call me up whenever you need any help! Don't hesitate." Akshat and I stay at his home for a while. His mother is not there. He says, "You made her at least half as beautiful as yourself. Thanks a lot." "Mr. Akshat, you seem a lot flirty these days." "What? Why do people always think that? I am just overly sweet!" "Alright Mr. Sweet! I have a party at my place on Friday and you are invited. You can make it right?" "Thanks. Of course, I will." We both just sit for some time saying nothing, sometimes looking at each other, smiling and then I leave. Why can't we just admit that we like each other? Why is everything so hard? I thought 2 mature people could do better than this.
          Tonight is party night! I am really excited as Akshat will be here. Also, I haven't seen my college friends and cousins in a long time. Everyone is almost here except for Akshat. The bell rings. By the time, I am sitting with my sweetheart, Preet. He is saying, "I love you so much. It's been 2 years since we are together. You are the best girlfriend!" I smile and hug him. From the corner of my eye, I watch Akshat leaving.

Read Coincidental Love. (Part II) here.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Happy Mother's Day!!!

          I'm sure every child is busy pleasing its mother today. Some might be cooking for her. Some might be gifting her wonderful items. Some might be sharing their life's important things with her. As for me, I'm neither a cook nor an orator. I am a writer. So here's me wishing my mother the happiest Mothers' Day through my words.
          Firstly, I will say what you already know. You make the most amazing food. I mean, there's no question about it. Everyone can see that on our family's stomachs. You give the best advice. Sometimes the answer is right in front of me and you just clear up the dust in between. You watch Grey's Anatomy with me and The Avengers with Ashwin. You are so rocking when you make references from those to mock us. I know I cannot be pro like that. You take care of all of us so dearly. You are so funny sometimes that I wonder why didn't I get that from you. You taunt us like a perfectionist and get the work done. You are such an emotional person. You can cry even by watching a tense moment in a serial. I cannot do that at all. I do hate it when you switch on the TV when I'm reading a book and at the end compel me to watch. I hate it when you splash water at my face when I don't wake up in the morining. I hate it when you force me to go to family get-togethers and ask me to talk to people. I hate it when you care too much. But now that I think of all these things, it just brings a smile on my face. You were just trying to make me a better person, in your own style.
          Aai, you have been my oxygen ever since I was a kid. I know, I still act as a kid. But if I won't act like that around you, then around who else? You are my pillar of strength. Whenever I throw away my books during studying or give up on getting up from the couch, you always make sure I get up and move on. If I won't act like a drama queen around you, then around who else? I act like the most raged person at home. I talk gibberish and act like a madwoman whenever I'm angry. But, if I won't throw tantrums around you, then around who else? Whenever I fight with my friends or say things like I'm done with them, you tell me to keep calm. You somehow say things so practical and true that I feel like I have no common sense. If I won't act like an innocent daughter around you, then around who else? You are my personal shopper. I know you always tell me to shop with my friends and not to bother you. I take an hour to buy one top. If I won't do all the nakhras around you, then around who else?
          As melodramatic as it sounds, it is only the truth. If it weren't for you, I cannot even imagine what a mess I would have been. (More than the normal, I mean) If it weren't for you, I don't know how I would have survived for even a single day. If it weren't for you, I'd just be a mean person who forgot how to laugh. Right from my morning coffee to well, my night coffee, you are always there. I cannot say how lucky I am to have such an awesome, loving and caring mother.
I love you Aai! Happy Mother's Day!



Saturday, 9 May 2015

Passionate Prodigies.

Chapter 1

          In the biggest auditorium in the city of Delhi, hundreds of people gave a standing ovation and wouldn't stop clapping. The child on stage was a young girl of 12, Samaira Sharma, who had given a splendid dance performance of contemporary art form. Samaira started dancing at a tender age of 4 years. Her parents Ram and Kavita saw her talent and encouraged her. Where businessman Ram provided financial aid, home-maker Kavita gave her daughter all the motivation she needed. Since the past 7-8 years, Samaira's talent was recognized all over the nation.
          In another part of India, in Chennai, another young girl, Deepika Nayar, aged 9 was making remarkable achievements in the field of Bharatnatyam dance form since 2 years. Her family comprised of only her elder brother, Dakshay. Her parents had died in a factory blast. Her brother supported her in all the walks of life. He had a decent job and earned satisfactorily to support them both.
          In the slums of Mumbai, Gayatri Patil was yet another girl who excelled at Lavani and Bollywood dance forms. Her parents Dinkar and Shashi were stunned when they found out that there was a child prodigy hidden in their daughter. At the age of 7, having danced for 2 years, Gayatri was a girl with abundant talent but no money. She had won some of the local competitions but those weren't going to be significant.
          After a week, Mr. Mehra who was a successful dancer started a search for young talent all over India pursuing a variety of dance forms. Within a matter of time, a team was formed inclusive of Samaira, Deepika and Gayatri. Mr. Mehra was aware of the diffferent dance forms they knew. He was going to make it an advantage rather than a barrier. Days passed by. It was quite difficult for them to adjust with each other. Samaira, the rich spoiled brat couldn't deal with them at first. The youngest, Gayatri, thought she was too much. Deepika struck a friendship with both of them though. The three of them wouldn't have grown so close if it weren't for Deepika. She was the common thread earlier but later on, they all became great friends. Along with Mr. Mehra, they started analyzing each other's dances, gave suggestions and shared the areas for improvement. After weeks of hard work, it was time to show the world what they possessed. Mr. Mehra enrolled their names in a national competition. They kept on winning; preliminary rounds, quarters, semis and then the finals. They won that competition. Individually, they were perfect but as a group, they were phenominal. They were the first ones to forge three dance forms in one act. It was a treat to watch them dance, the judge had said. The next 2 years were witnessed by increasing growth and a line of successes. It was 2015, they had aged. Child prodigies are not forever but there were no signs as to their slowing talent. They were on a roll.
          Gayatri said, "Isn't it amazing? Three child prodigies coming together to form the best dance group!" Samaira began, "That's right. We're achieving milestones that no one has achieved before. We are the next big thing." Deepika checked in, "If anyone of us goes off, it'll be you, Samaira! Fly as much as you wish but keep your feet on the ground! We achieved so much. The last thing we need is bad publicity." Samaira squeaked, "Yes, yes. Nothing is going to happen to us. Successes are going to come our way like they always did. We are rooted in the industry now and we have to continue giving our best." Gayatri talked, "That's true. Let's start preparing for the next event. It's going to be an honor to be performing in front of the Prime Minister and receiving an award by him!"

Chapter 2

          On a Saturday evening, the event was to start. The three girls' families were there to view their daughters dance. It was a moment of pride and delusional happiness. Samaira, Deepika and Gayatri had their performance at the beginning. The anxiety was building up within them, like it always did. They were dolled up and ready to dance. An elated Gayatri began, "Girls, this is the most important dance of our lives. How excited are you!?" Deepika said, "I can't wait to go out there and dance my heart out! This is so thrilling." Samaira spoke with zeal, "This is really unbelievable. It's a vital event for us.  Now, we are going to give our best performance today. I can feel it! Let's go, team!!" It was time. They were on stage. The crowd was a vast expanse as far as they could see. It was usual for them now. The music started and so did their feet. The PM was astounded by their talent. As their dance had reached due course, something unusual happened. The beady lace from Gayatri's skirt went loose. It fell off dragging her skirt with it, leaving her partly exposed. Samaira immediately went to cover her. Deepika, unaware, kept dancing there. She slipped over the beads and fell hard on the stage, damaging her back. Samaira and Gayatri were too shocked to respond. Both teary-eyed girls went to help Deepika, who was in a puddle of tears. Embarrassed, they left the stage from the back exit. There was silence in the changing room. It all happened so unexpectedly quick that there was no time to react. It was their first ever failure.
          Gayatri was furious, "How did it happen? We had checked everything so many times! How did it even happen? Why would such a horrible thing happen to me?" Deepika said, "It totally sucks. Firstly, I was devastated after I fell. And then, I saw you like that. I mean, how on earth would it have happened?" Samaira started consoling them, "It wasn't our fault. The stupid designer is to be blamed. Mr. Mehra is going to fire him. Let's just go to the room and rest." However, after some time, they had to go up there, in front of thousands of people to accept their award. After such a performance it seemed absolutely silly to accept an award, that too by such an important person. They almost didn't want to go after all the humiliation but it was going to be handed by the Prime Minister himself. After a lot of badgering from Mr. Mehra and their family, they decided to accept it.
          Their names were called on stage. Even a joke was made at their expense, which belittled them further. They accepted the award. The PM said, "Congratulations and don't let little incidents bother you." That made them feel better. Just when they were about to leave the podium, there was a gun shot! The bullet hit Samaira by the arm, leaving her injured. Everyone was terrified. There was a lot of choas and hustle bustle within the crowd.  The bodyguards came to the rescue. PM was taken to a safe place and the girls were given protection. No sooner than they were inside, their parents rushed inside along with a doctor. Thankfully, there was one present in the audience. Samaira was unconscious by the time. The doctor removed the bullet and put on bandage. It was not a life threatening wound, but it caused a tremendous shock to all of them. The girls weren't capable to speak nor were their folks. After all, it isn't something that happens everyday! Apparently, the gun was fired by some drunk lunatic who was arrested by the police later on.
          The next day, everything felt disastrous. Not only was their mishap viral but so was the shooting. It was impossible to ignore it. Samaira was not taken to the hospital as it was not a fatal wound. But, she was definitely in pain. The moment they woke up, they saw the news flash on their mobiles, television and the newspapers. It broke them. It wasn't something they had to deal with earlier. This was their first failure and it injured them deeply. They met each other every day but outside of the studio. The outgoing Samaira started becoming quieter. Gayatri always wore too many clothes. Deepika glanced at laughing passers-by always wondering they were laughing at her. They gave up on dancing for a couple of weeks. It was just impossible, under the circumstances, to even think about a competition.

Chapter 3

           2 months went by. The restless girls finally decided to start dancing again. They began preparing for another show to be held for the Police Department. It was around 15 days away. Gradually, the day of show arrived. Samaira, Deepika and Gayatri had practiced well. Right before the moment they were called up on stage, Samaira spoke up, "I'm afraid. I have never been afraid of performing but now all I can think of is that those people are going to laugh at us. Or shoot us." Deepika said, "Try to relax. You can imagine my fear then. There's a reason why I'm wearing clothes from top to bottom!" Gayatri told them, "At least you two remember the moves! I am going to blank out and become a national joke. Again!" They went on the stage as their name was called. After 7 minutes of the performance, they were relieved. They felt a sense of comfort that it was over.
         The level of their performance sank faster and deeper. The series of failures continued. Before every dance, they prayed that they won't screw up. After every dance, there was a relief that they didn't. They didn't know how these feelings changed so much. The year was the worst one they had. After years of laurels and achievements, there was a steep way downhill. It wasn't even a fluctuating graph. It was a "V" turned upside down. Was this going to happen to them? Was it the end of the prodigies? Or was it just a slump? Was their talent going off like a leak in the water tanker? One day, Ram, Kavita, Dinkar, Shashi and Dakshay met with Mr. Mehra. They explained to them how their girls were broken. They were even thinking about quitting altogether. They shared all their worries with them. None of them wanted them to quit dancing. Mr. Mehra promised them that he will help. He promised them that he would do his best to bring the girls on top of the game.
          After two days, Mr. Mehra met up with his three prodigies and decided to take them to a music show. It was a delightful musical evening with four musicians. A lady was singing. Two other men were on the harmonium and flute respectively. And a young boy was on the tabla. The music was so soothing. Their devotion shone out so purely. The way the woman closed her eyes, had a bit of a frown of concentration and the way her hand was raised up to depict the high note. Her dedication shone brightly from her expressions. It was almost magical. When the show ended, Mr. Mehra asked the girls, "Did you like the show?" All the three nodded yes. He then began, "Did you notice anything among them?" They were surprised by the question. They had scarce knowledge of music then what were they going to notice? Whether she was off-tone? Looking at their confused faces, he explained to them, "Those artists were enjoying themselves. They weren't performing for the audience. They were doing it because they found themselves while doing it. Singing, for them, is their life and audience is only a secondary factor. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?" Their faces were blank. Deepika spoke up, "Are you saying we could learn something from them?" He nodded, "Yes, you're right. Samaira, after 10 years of success, you're now doubting yourself. Deepika, after 6 years of proving yourself in this field, you're limiting your capabilities. And Gayatri, after 5 years of constant practice, you feel like you're not good enough. Before the start of your failures, did you ever bother about anything else? You just wanted to dance! That was something you did because it gave you joy. It was a feeling of freedom. Dancing meant everything to you. But after that show, you have started to act so differently. Before a performance, you are scared instead of being excited. You feel relief instead of content after a performance. You think about other people more than you think about your dance moves. You take up simple steps rather than challenging yourself. Where have those prodigies gone? Those little girls who cared only and only about dancing? Where's that passion gone? I know, I should congratulate you for not taking fame into your heads but this is equally bad. You have got to remember why you started. It's not that your talent is shading off. You have improved yourself, over the years and you can see it in your numerous medals and trophies. So now you have talent plus lots of hard work. It's only those bizarre thoughts in your head which are ruining it for you. You shouldn't let your mind play games with yourself. Develop some mental confidence and try to dance for yourself. Otherwise, what's the use of anything?" Samaira, Deepika and Gayatri were too numbed to reply. They understood each word spoken by their tutor. The truth of the whole situation left them open-mouthed. Knowing something is one thing. But, when it is spoken out loud, then it becomes a real thing. It gets conviction and purpose. The remaining day they spent in silence. They even asked at their homes. Ram and Kavita consoled Samaira. They told her the same truth but also told her that it was not too late to become fearless. Dakshay sat by his sister and assured her that she could still get back on track. He even convinced her to wear comfortable clothes instead of over dressing all the time. "One wardrobe malfunction cannot take away the spark in my sister", he had said. Dinkar asked Deepika to live her life as per her terms. He convinced her that the society is a very expansive, useless and the last thing she should be worried about. Her mother, Shashi, asked her to go over her tapes of performances and study the difference. The three of them pondered over the words of Mr. Mehra and thier loved ones till they fell asleep.
          The next day, they met and started watching the video tapes of all their major performances. The transition was remarkable and noteworthy. It was impossible to ignore the change before and after that life-changing show. After some time, Deepika said, "Enough of this. After watching so many videos, I am just euphoric to get moving. Let's dance!" With no more arguments, the music was on. With a smile on their faces and a complete mental makeover, they danced with grace, joy and life. There was no fear about anything. They didn't care about any competition. They now knew that dance is not equal to competition. Dance equals life. They didn't feel like stopping. As Mr. Mehra saw them, he recorded their fabulous dance of freedom. As anticipated, it got the most views online and the three woman prodigies were officially back!
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