They were both waiting to hire a cab after they had spent the day walking on the beach hand in hand.
“I seriously want to see you off.”
“It is late, I can’t risk you coming back alone, I will drop you and then I will leave for the airport.”
She rolled her eyes and said “Its only evening Neerav.”
“Ok, I just need to drop you first. I might not be able to check with you on time that you are back, you know I have to board a flight.” he looked at her pleadingly.
Snehali made a face and agreed petulantly.
“I will come to see you next week, I will book a flight for Saturday Morning.”
Snehali smiled enthusiastically, “Are you sure? Wouldn’t it be too hectic for you?”
Neerav shook his head as if to say it was what he wanted the most.
Snehali was smiling widely this time holding her hands together in front of her “I can’t wait for the next weekend to come.”
Neerav had smiled and was looking at Snehali’s face, how her face betrayed her feelings. He knew this was not a girl who could even attempt lying ever, looking at her face anyone would know what was going on in her mind.
“But when I am finally settled in my room, we will be coming over to each other’s places alternate weekends. I don’t want you to tell me later, it was only you who put in all the efforts.”
“Come on, Why would I ever say that? And yes, you are welcome to come over to my place whenever you want to. “
“No, just wondering, what if, someday we get married and we have a fight and this is the first thing you come out with. I don’t want to give you any such material you know.” She had said with a mischievous look in her eyes.
“That someday, I would be the luckiest man on this earth.” he had said with utmost seriousness.
Oh! the days just after a proposal, when both the parties know about each other’s feelings really well. They don’t know if they should be in the air flying or should they get along with their day to day work. They don’t have eyes or ears for anyone else but for their partner. And there is a smile plastered on their faces that does not go away even after a lot of tries. These two people, so much in love, can spend 24 hours of a day talking to each other without batting an eyelid or stifling a yawn. And it appears they don’t even need food to survive. The “Love in the air” is sufficient to keep them full.
As anyone would guess, the weekdays were proving hard to go by for both of them, It was only Wednesday and Neerav felt like it had been ages since he saw Snehali, He sent her a message “Woah! It is only Wednesday yet!”
“Glad to know you know the days of the week Mr Anand.”
“Feels like ages since I last saw you.”
Snehali sent him a lot of her pictures “To lighten your load. Don’t forget to repay my good deed.”
“You made my day Ms Pandey. I look forward to making this our little tradition. Please send me a picture of yours daily.
Though not so fond of taking my own pictures. Your wish is my command.” He took a picture of himself just then and sent it to her.
Neerav had sent a picture with a tongue jutting out in a manner to tease her.
Snehali had laughed out loud seeing the picture. She only stopped laughing when she realised that everyone around was staring at her.
Neerav had a flight booked for himself for Saturday early morning and it was Friday.
“TGIF?” Snehali received this message from Neerav
“Disappointed that it’s not Saturday”
“What happened to the girl who could only think about work even on team outings?”
Snehali was rolling her eyes seeing this message from Neerav when another arrived. “;-)”
The world felt surreal as they kept meeting each other every weekend. Initially they both liked the idea of spending days on a beach and Snehali used to look for different beaches every time Neerav arrived.
After one month, when Snehali went to Delhi, she stayed with her parents and met him on Sunday for a brunch. They used to be together from morning till evening.
It was after about 2 months that Neerav was about to come to Mumbai the next Saturday and Snehali had prepared an extensive itinerary for their weekend, she now knew more about Mumbai. She was also comfortably settled in her room. She had already messaged Neerav about the places she had in mind to visit.
When he finally arrived, Snehali was nowhere to be found, she usually came to meet him at the airport itself. Neerav again looked at his phone and seeing no message from Snehali started worrying why she was not there, he was just calling Snehali when the phone buzzed with a message. It was from her, he had a puzzled expression on his face while he started checking the message.”Has your flight landed? I am stuck at office because of some urgent work. Hopefully, I will be free in 30 minutes, Can I meet you at Panache cafe directly?” He thought this was odd. She did not even call to ask about my flight. This is so unlike Snehali.
He hired a cab and went to Panache cafe. When he arrived after about 40 minutes, Snehali had not reached there yet. He got seated on a table for 2, and took out his phone to ask her how much time it will take her to reach, just then he received a message from her. “It will take me 30 minutes more, did you reach the cafe already?”
Reading the message, Neerav felt more intrigued, and was blinking rapidly looking at the message as if he was trying to see some hidden message there. Just then he heard a muffled sound of laughter coming from a corner of the hotel lobby, just near the door. He felt the laugh oddly familiar and turned to see the source.
Yes, it was Snehali. He was now narrowing his eyes at her and had a tight smile on his face “I knew you were up to something. What was it with no calls and only messages?” he asked her, bewildered.
“You know, I am not good at playing pranks. If I had called you, I am sure I would have laughed on the phone and how could I miss the precious expression on your face right now?” she pinched his cheeks laughing.
He pulled his cheeks from her hold and took her to the table holding her hand.
“Not that I want to take your moment away, but just as I saw your message after I landed, I was sure you were up to something. You would not have messaged me at the last moment if it was happening for real.”
“You know me so well.” Snehali continued in a child-like accent but Neerav rolled his eyes at her. Soon after that, he had a wide grin on his face when he said “You know I discovered one thing, your laughter is my stress buster. When I heard your laughter I felt all my tension disappear.”
“And you know I can always count on you to say something so romantic even in situations like these.” she said giggling.
“Come on, let’s order, Our banter can continue even after that.” Snehali called the waiter.
“What will you have?”
“Whatever you will have.”
She ordered food for both of them.
He was observing her the whole time. When the waiter left he said with curiosity writ all over his face, “You are different today, you are very happy. What is it?”
Snehali felt her cheeks redden, “Of course, I am seeing you after a long time.”
Neerav shook his head and stated, “We have been meeting for about 2 months now and we were friends before that. So, sorry, but you can’t fool me!”
Snehali gave in, “It is mostly because I am seeing you today and a bit because I am very excited to visit the Elephanta caves.” She was grinning like a child and pulled up her shoulders excitedly.Neerav looked at her affectionately and thought I can always count on my Snehali to find happiness in the most unlikely of places
After having breakfast, they rested in Snehali’s room for a while and then took off for Elephanta caves.
First, they went to the Gateway of India to buy the tickets for boats that would take them to the Elephanta caves.
Just when they reached the Gateway of India, some clouds had started gathering. Neerav noticed and asked her “Is it ok to go there if there is a chance of rain?”
Snehali replied, “Yes, of course, if there had been a problem, they would not be selling any tickets for it right.”
Neerav nodded “Makes sense.”
He got the tickets and stood in the queue to the boats, it took them about 15 minutes before they boarded one. The boat had 2 seating levels, they could sit on the lower level which was covered or they could climb to the top which was open and had a better view of the sea. So they paid a little bit extra and sat at the top level.
They had been spending almost every alternate weekend on beaches and yet the sea seemed refreshing to both of them. They both seemed to assimilate and appreciate the calmness of the sea. And now, they were sitting inside a boat, enjoying the sea all around with seagulls coming into view sometimes. They felt content.
When they reached the entrance to the Elephanta caves, more clouds had gathered and the sky was getting darker.
Neerav looked at Snehali with some doubt, “How will we return if it rains heavily?”
“We can always wait for the rain to stop. And besides that is their job, they know how to do it.” she said pointing towards the people driving the boat.
“And don’t worry, we are not alone here.”
They had to walk for about a kilometre before the stairs to the caves started. The path was strewn with shops at regular intervals. Snehali liked eating raw mango with the spices so she bought one and went munching on it all the way. They walked hand in hand on the stairs leading to the caves.
Finally they came in view of the caves, it was a long walk before reaching the caves and it was all proving to be worth it. Such big caves made out of just rocks with intricate carvings. The humungous amount of work that must have gone into making such sculptures out of mere rocks was astounding. The larger than life figures of hindu deities carved on the walls and the cloudy skies were adding to the grandeur of it all.
Just when they entered the main enclosure of the caves, the clouds started rumbling.
Neerav looked worried “Any minute now.”
And soon it started raining. Everyone around took refuge under the caves. Neerav too took her hand and started running towards the cave trying to protect both of them from the rain. But he realized Snehali was not moving, she was holding his hand trying to stop him.
Neerav looked at her with wide eyes, “Snehali, we will get sick. Come on.” he pleaded.
Snehali was getting drenched in the rain with her arms wide open and her palms facing the rain as if to take in the beauty of the moment in the best possible way. Standing in the rain in front of the large caves that were reminiscent of the golden era gone by, was making her feel very special and she did not want it to go to waste. Just then she thought of something and said, “I have always wanted to dance in the rain. Now when I have you and we are at such a special place, I can’t let this opportunity go. Can we?”
“But, here?” Neerav whispered.
Snehali looked at the crowd standing under the roof of the caves.
They went outside where there were a lot of trees but the place was deserted.
Neerav smiled, “Perfect!”
And they danced there, in the rain. They danced like no one was watching. They danced forgetting any worries.
The moments when we are our true selves are the moments when we are happy, when we have nothing to hide and when we feel at peace. It is at these moments when we are the most likeable. In a relationship, these are the most cherished moments because no one is putting up any acts, no one is doing things the society has been dictating them to do, no one is worried about the outcomes of their actions. We are not judging any one and no one is judging us. Sharing this moment was going to be a milestone in Snehali and Neerav’s relationship.
For Snehali, it was a dream come true and she loved how Neerav was willing to dance with her just because she always wanted to. For her, it was her eternity. Of course, he did not know how to dance which was another matter altogether. For now, what mattered was that he was with her.
For Neerav, he was happy he was part of what Snehali always wanted to do. He cherished her and loved her the way she was. This moment when he had let go of any inhibitions just for Snehali was a first for him and he wanted to treasure this moment forever. For him, For her and for their relationship.
Neerav used to book a hotel for himself near the airport whenever he came to Mumbai to aid him getting to the airport quickly.
When they came back from the Elephanta caves, and their cab reached Snehali’s residence, she was sleeping with her head on his shoulder. When the Cab stopped, he tapped on her shoulder to wake her up. When she did not wake up, he touched her cheek. Her cheek was very hot to touch which made Neerav touch her forehead immediately. It was burning. He got scared and started shouting.
“Snehali, wake up! wake up Snehali!”
Snehali woke up startled. Her throat was paining. She opened her eyes with an effort. “What happened?”
Then she realized, “Oh! we reached my room?”
“Your head is burning Snehali!”
“What? No no I am fine. I will just sleep and I will be ok tomorrow.”
“No, wait I am coming with you.” Neerav said creasing his forehead.
He paid the cab driver hurriedly and asked Snehali to come out, she stumbled a bit when she got up but he caught her. He took her inside giving support to one of her shoulder.
When they entered her room, Neerav went looking for the first aid box and Snehali got herself changed.
He gave her a medicine for fever and kept cold towel cloth on her forehead till her temperature went to normal.
Snehali’s fever made her sleep as soon as she lay on the bed.
It was when her temperature was back to normal that she woke up and found Neerav sitting on the flour on the side of the bed. He had one hand on her forehead and was resting his head on the side of the bed. She looked at him benignly. What had she ever done to deserve such a caring person.
She looked for a blanket, covered Neerav with it and went back to sleep holding his hand.
The next day, when Snehali woke up she found Neerav looking at her with a weird expression. She realized that he was worried for her the whole night and gave a sheepish grin. He asked amused “What was the reason again, that you could never dance in rain before?”
Snehali’s face drooped when she said “Once when I got wet in the rain returning from school, I got high fever. My Parents have been extra careful to not let me get drenched in the rain since then.”
Neerav replied wryly “I am hoping the fever was not as bad as this one.”
“It was worse.”
“Oh that is why you forgot to tell me about it.” He crossed his arms and looked at her sternly.
Snehali could only look down with a sad face.
His voice softened when he said “Do you even realize what could have happened yesterday? You had high fever and it took about an hour to get normal. I was so worried. if I had not known you had a fever, I don’t know what would have happened to you.” he seemed agitated at the thought.
He took a deep breath and then continued softly “We could have avoided all this if we had not got wet in the rain, right?”
She looked at him hopefully this time as if she was forgiven “I know, but for me yesterday was the best time I ever had. And you know, a dance in the rain is every girl’s dream” she grinned.
Neerav could only roll his eyes at her “Oh, whatever!”
To be continued….